Austin, Round Rock students learn about community through philanthropy

As the school year comes to a close, so do the philanthropy projects taken on by students across Central Texas. While many public, private and parochial schools award special recognition to students who perform a set number of volunteer hours, students in local nonprofit programs explore philanthropy for its own sake.

For three years, Breaden Hutson, a 17-year-old student at Round Rock High School, has been a member of the young philanthropy group, ChangeMakers, administered by the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation. With $10,000 from Wells Fargo to give away, the program allows about 45 high school students from across the district a six-month course in strategic philanthropic giving.

First, ChangeMakers students survey their peers to find out the issues they care about most. Then the group solicits proposals from local nonprofits that address those concerns. This year, the focus has been on kids and youth with special needs.

“The nonprofits present us with lots of facts and stories about the issues facing kids in our community,” said Hutson. “Typically these are issues that are displaced from my life, like a group that helps foster kids or another that helps kids with addiction problems. And it changes the way you look at your own life because you see how these other kids live, kids you come into contact with every day.”

After months of presentations from multiple groups and at least two group service projects, the ChangeMakers students gather to vote on how to grant the $10,000, a meeting that Hutson characterized as “discourse and disagreement.”

“Certainly there are some kids that are more adamant about certain nonprofits,” said Hutson, “but we remind ourselves what we’re doing and that there’s going to be a positive outcome no matter who we pick.”

The group will make choose its grant recipients this Monday.

This past Friday, students participating in A Legacy of Giving’s Community Impact Projects were able to showcase their work to the public. Legacy offers a philanthropy curriculum to local schools, from elementary to high school. About 85 students, from 15 Legacy schools, participate in the showcase, which took place at the Thinkery.

Caroline Page, executive director of Legacy, said the projects ranged from those by students at Blanton Elementary School, who worked with the nonprofit TreeFolks to replace trees in their neighborhood, to those by students at Reagan High School, who are creating care packages for homeless students from their school.

“When I listened to the students explain how they came to decide what social concern to tackle, I was blown away by their passion and professionalism,” said Page. “I left the showcase feeling such hope in this generation of young people because of their compassion for others and desire to help their community in so many different ways.”


NOTE: This article is published through a partnership with the Austin American-Statesman, which first published this story on April 2, 2017. 

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