Youth Philanthropy Council Enters Second Year

The Highland County Youth Philanthropy Council is entering its second year of existence, and we spoke with Josh Umar, Youth and Community Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center and Hannah Adams, a sophomore student participant, to get a refresher course on the project.

Mr. Umar:

“The Youth Philanthropy Council is a group of 12 high school students from Highland High School, 9th – 12th grade, and their goal as a group is to find ways to support local non-profits and charities, and the great activities that they do all year in Highland. Try to find ways to facilitate them and support them, financially primarily. They’re a grant-making group, and they sort of seek applications, and do interviews, and try to find the best way to give that money away to do the most amount of good in the community that they can do. And during the process of that, they learn all sorts of good leadership skills, and skills about how to prioritize, and manage budgets and all sorts of other good stuff like that.

“Last year the group gave away $5,000, and it was primarily through three grants that they made to local non-profits: valley Program for Aging Services got some money to support their transportation programs; the Allegheny Mountain Strings Project got a small grant to buy some ensemble books; and the Humane Society here got a grant to reach out to, mostly seniors and home-bound folks, who’s animals are their only companions, and just make sure that the animals are taken care of, and have veterinary care and food, things like that.

“So those are the grants that we gave away last year, and things will be similar this year, but not exactly the same. Our funding priorities for the year, we’re looking for projects that are going to do one or more of the following things: we want to help insure equal and expanded access to education; remove barriers – and I think a lot of us know what they are – to youth retention and resident attraction; we want to increase access to vital services like health care, especially mental health care is one that the YPC cares a lot about; we want to make sure that people have opportunities to develop commitment to their community through volunteering; and we’re hoping to kind of fill gaps in existing services or resources, especially if anybody has ideas that are sort of creative and novel for doing that, to address long-standing problems in the community – that’s one of our main goals. So if you have something like that, please let us know, because our ultimate goal is to try to support those local non-profits and fills those gaps, and spur kind-of innovative approaches.

“The application is online – it is live right now. You can contact me at The Highland Center, 540-468-1922, or Hannah, or any of the other members of the Youth Philanthropy Council – they will all be able to direct you where you need to go to be able to apply. The application deadline is Thursday, January 19th at midnight.”

The funding for the project comes from the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, and is open to non-profits located in or planning to expand to Highland County.

Ms. Adams talked about what drew her to take part, and the process the council used to award the grants.

“I wanted to be part of the Youth Philanthropy Council because it seems like a really good idea and a fun experience. I’ve had lots of fun and it’s been really eye-opening to see what the community needs and how to help them.

“last year when we got the applications, we all read them individually, and looked over them and had our own opinions about every application, and then when a meeting was called, we would go and discuss all the do’s and don’ts and all the likes and dislikes about each application. And we would come to a group conclusion about who we would like to interview. We would call in a couple and decline a couple immediately – and whoever came in for an interview, we would ask more questions about their project and how it will help the community, and if it meets the needs that we would like it to. And then from there, we just pick how much we want to give to each project, or if we wanted to give none at all.”

“I just think it’s really fun to help the community.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

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