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BGCL Presents Grants to Local Nonprofits Through Highland Street Youth Philanthropy Initiative

June 01, 2016

For the past 10 weeks, youth members of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence (BGCL) have researched local nonprofit organizations and evaluated their missions, financial needs, and respective impacts on the community. With funding from the Highland Street Foundation Youth Philanthropy Initiative, the 10-member group presented $2,500 grants on June 1 to two Lawrence-based organizations: the Psychological Center and Essex Art Center.

The Newton-based Highland Street Youth Philanthropy Initiative is a program for middle, high school, and college-aged youth that engages and empowers students to collectively choose and fund locally-based nonprofit organizations that are addressing the most pressing community and societal needs. In the past five years, more than 500 students have allocated over $400,000 to causes within their communities.

According to BGCL Teen Director Jody Raineri, the program helped youth members develop an understanding of how nonprofits improve our society, as well as effective nonprofit management techniques. After researching dozens of organizations, they evaluated formal presentations from three finalists before collectively deciding how to allocate the funding.

"Giving youth the opportunity and the responsibility to make choices that impact the life of another person can be a very powerful lesson," Raineri said. "We all know that experience is the best teacher, and this program helped our members develop knowledge, insight, teamwork, and other life lessons that will serve them well in whichever careers they ultimately pursue."

Jailene Garcia, a Central Catholic High School graduate who will attend Suffolk University this fall, said the group decided to allocate the funds to two nonprofits, rather than a single organization, in order to make an impact on multiple societal issues. "We learned what philanthropy really means, how nonprofits work business-wise, and how important and valuable they are to the community," she said.

Latiny Ke, a Lawrence High School graduate who is heading to Westfield State University, said the donations to BGCL are even more appreciated now that she has experienced the grant process. "It really opened my eyes to all the other nonprofits that need funds," she said. "Getting the opportunity to be involved in helping others is very meaningful. I hope these grants can have a big impact for years to come."

The Psychological Center provides services to people in the Merrimack Valley who are experiencing mental health issues, substance or alcohol abuse, opiate addiction, and homelessness. The grant will provide one year of art supplies for the women in its Pegasus House and Women's View addiction recovery programs for whom art therapy provides a new form of communication, self-reflection, expression, and self-confidence.

"Art therapy can be a calming and productive way for the women to express feelings that may be difficult to communicate. It also helps them focus on the beauty inside themselves, while having fun creating spectacular pieces of artwork," said Carina Pappalardo, chief executive officer of the Psychological Center. "We are all very grateful to the BGCL/Highland Street Youth Philanthropy Initiative and look forward to an everlasting partnership."

The Essex Art Center inspires and nurtures the diverse artistic potential of the Greater Lawrence community through classroom exploration and gallery exhibition, making the creation and enjoyment of art accessible to all. The grant will support its summer mural program to beautify blighted spaces identified with collaboration from the City of Lawrence and local building owners.

"The Essex Art Center is so grateful for the support of the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and Highland Street Youth Philanthropy Initiative," said John Budzyna, executive director of the Essex Art Center. "Students in our summer mural program learn so much as they transform blighted spaces into bright, positive expressions of our community. It's an opportunity they will always remember, and it's also a lasting gift to our neighborhoods as we show how art can transform spaces and build communities."

"The community cohesion that is so necessary in our society can be found within the nonprofit sector, yet an understanding of this sector remains a mystery to many American youth," said Blake Jordan, executive director of the Highland Street Foundation. "The ultimate goal of our lesson plan is to perpetuate a civil society where young people work together to serve their communities, developing within themselves a lifelong commitment to voluntary action for the common good."

 

BGCL Presents Grants to Local Nonprofits Through Highland Street Youth Philanthropy Initiative

June 18, 2015

For the past 10 weeks, BGCL youth members have been researching local nonprofit organizations and evaluating their missions, financial needs, and respective impacts on the community. With funding from the Highland Street Foundation's Youth Philanthropy Initiative, the eight-member group presented grants totaling $5,000 on June 16 to three organizations: $2,000 to Elevated Thought, $2,000 to the MSPCA at Nevins Farm, and $1,000 to the Merrimack Valley YMCA.

The Newton-based Highland Street Youth Philanthropy Initiative is a program for middle, high school, and college-aged youth that engages and empowers students to collectively choose and fund locally-based nonprofit organizations that are addressing the most pressing community and societal needs. In the past four years, more than 500 students have allocated over $400,000 to causes within their communities.

According to BGCL Teen Director Jody Raineri, the program helped youth members develop an understanding of how nonprofits improve our society, as well as effective nonprofit management techniques. After researching dozens of organizations, they evaluated formal presentations from five finalists before collectively deciding how to allocate the funding.

"Giving youth the opportunity and the responsibility to make choices that impact the life of another person can be a very powerful lesson," Raineri said. "We all know that experience is the best teacher, and this program helped our members develop knowledge, insight, teamwork, and other life lessons that will serve them well in whichever careers they ultimately pursue."

Steven T., 16, said the group decided to allocate the funds to multiple nonprofits, rather than a single organization, in order to make an impact on several societal issues. "Before this program, I knew that people gave money to charities, but now I know how the process works," he said. "It's important for kids to understand the issues in Lawrence, but also all the different things people are doing to make the city better."

Rosa R., also 16, said the donations to BGCL are even more meaningful now that she has experienced the grant process. "We know the difference the club makes in our lives, and for all the other kids, and it's inspiring to have the chance to help someone else."

Lawrence-based Elevated Thought will use the grant to support Creative. Community. Change. (C3), a beautification program of public art projects in Lawrence. Through its youth empowerment curriculum, C3 features social discussion, the creation of personal and group narratives in poetry and other forms of creative writing, and the transmission of written work to various visual art mediums.

Based in Methuen, the MSPCA at Nevins Farm will hold a free parvovirus and rabies vaccination clinic for dogs owned by residents of Lawrence. In addition, dog owners may sign up for free and low-cost spay and neuter surgeries for their dogs and cats, as well as learn about effective, positive reinforcement dog training.

The Lawrence-based Merrimack Valley YMCA will use the grant to retroactively fund the inaugural Merrimack Valley CORE 4 Youth Leadership Summit, an outdoor leadership program which took place from June 12-14 for 60 teens from the Merrimack Valley YMCA, North Andover Youth and Recreation Services, Andover Youth Services, and BGCL. The agenda included team-building and problem-solving activities, workshops on leadership and issues facing teens, and time to develop plans to continue working together to implement positive changes in the Merrimack Valley.

"The community cohesion that is so necessary in our society can be found within the nonprofit sector, yet an understanding of this sector remains a mystery to many American youth," said Blake Jordan, executive director of the Highland Street Foundation. "The ultimate goal of our lesson plan is to perpetuate a civil society where young people work together to serve their communities, developing within themselves a lifelong commitment to voluntary action for the common good."

 

Did You Know?

The Beacon Club serves more than 300 children per year and provides a safe haven to children in the Beacon Projects in South Lawrence.