High school students in Winston-Salem learn to be philanthropists

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(From front) Cassidy Soutter and Elizabeth Webb, both of St. David's High School in Raleigh, add their autographs to a poster during the 2014 NC Youth Giving Summit at the downtown Marriott hotel in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. (Bruce Chapman/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With a fast-paced blend of a carnival, night club and leadership conference, the 2014 North Carolina Youth Giving Summit provided training for young philanthropists Saturday in downtown Winston-Salem, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

A group of 150 high-school students and their adult advisors attended the event at the Marriott on North Cherry Street.

The event kicked off with students introducing themselves, loud music, multi-media screens and a variety of activities that included summit-attendees joining hands and doing the wave — normal speed, slow and fast.

“It’s not about us anymore, is it?” Eric Rowles, the president and chief executive of Leading To Change Inc., a training company, asked the students.

“No,” said the students.

“It’s about somebody back home,” Rowles said. “It’s about somebody back in your community. You are learning how to give. You are learning how to pay it forward.”

Leading To Change, based in Charlotte, operates the N.C. Youth Giving Network, which puts on the summit. Formed in 2005, the network is made up of 25 different youth philanthropy sites from throughout North Carolina. Seven groups attended the summit on Saturday — Davie County SURF, Forsyth County YGA, Guilford County TGC, Jackson County YLC, Onslow County HARMONY, Wake County HYPE, and Wilkes County T3LC.

The summit is designed to prepare students for how and where they will grant more than $150,000 overall to help their communities. Philanthropic organizations across the state donate funds that they entrust to the students for allocation. Each community group has its own annual timeline for distributing money, which could range from $1,000 to more than $10,000.

“Rowles said that summit’s “The Hands of Giving” theme is “the idea that you can’t just talk about doing change in your community. You actually have to get your hands into it.”

Early on at the summit, students flocked to the wax hands booth to have their own “giving hands” immortalized in wax.

This is the third year that Mariah Adams, 17, of Forsyth YGA through the Winston-Salem Foundation, has attended the summit.

“I enjoy it because we give money to change the community,” Adams said.

Her youth philanthropy group typically has about $2,000 to distribute, she said.

“Usually we split it up between five and seven groups,” Adams said. “It just depends on the year.”

She said it is often difficult trying to decide the recipients of the funds.

“Sometimes we have to give less so we can give another group some money too.

Saturday’s summit activities also offered learning workshops. For example, Jill Gordon, the program director for the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Indiana, in Indianapolis, Ind., spoke about “Find the Fun in Fundraising,” and Annie Hernandez, the executive director of the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation, which runs a program called Youth Philanthropy Connect in Studio City, Calif., talked about “Mapping Your Treasure.”

Hernandez said she was also at the summit to learn about the great things that are happening with the youth programs in North Carolina “and figure out how we can tell that story on the national scene and how we can connect those that are doing this work in North Carolina to broader connections and resources.”

The 2014 North Carolina Youth Giving Summit also gave students the opportunity to volunteer at several local organizations, including The Salvation Army store on Peters Creek Parkway and the Habitat for Humanity Restore on Coliseum Drive.

Helen Miller and Evan Grant, both 16, of Jackson County YLC, have attended the summit for the past two years.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Miller said. “It’s a great way to be exposed to other groups. We really get to interact and learn new things about how we can better our community.”

Grant agreed saying the summit is an incredible experience.

“You also meet like-minded youth who are also involved in helping their communities,” Grant said.

Megan Mills of Winston-Salem participated in the first youth giving summit nine years ago. Today, she is an assistant advisor for the Winston-Salem Foundation and “Rockstarz associate” for Leading To Change.

“These are youths helping youths,” Mills said. “These summits are about the youths. They are not about the adults. They are about how we can make a difference, an impact in the youth’s lives in the community.”