Youth in Philanthropy 2015-2016


Colleen Kroeker

George Ranch 2015-2016 YIP Volunteers

By Melissa Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Putting others before yourself and helping them can be a hard thought to process for today’s younger generations, especially if it requires you to wake up early on a Saturday morning. Being a member of Youth in Philanthropy, there were times I just wanted to sleep in and not do anything all day but then I remembered “how is this going to help anyone?”.

Youth in Philanthropy is a program done by The George Foundation that allows high school juniors and seniors from schools in the Fort Bend county to work with their community’s nonprofit organizations and help make a difference. This year the pool of applicants exceeded roughly about nine hundred, and out of those nine hundred only around one hundred and sixty coveted a spot on the roster. Many people admitted at the beginning that they had mainly signed up because their parents forced them to and because it looks good on college apps (myself included), but once they actually went out and helped the nonprofits, it became much more than that.

How this program works is that there are 7 sessions you must attend on one Saturday out of every month (October through March) from 9 am to 3 pm. The first session is a mandatory orientation for all the participants to get debriefed on what they will be doing for the next few months, as well as to get to know the group that they have been assigned to and will be working with throughout the course of the program. One of the few rules that the program strictly enforces is only being able to miss one session and being on time, because failing to do so you are automatically out of the program. So for those of us who were able to commit our time each Saturday, I think it’s safe to say we found the following sessions to be quite eye opening.

At orientation, as previously mentioned, we all got a group we were assigned to and I had the pleasure of being a part of the Creative Achievers team. Each team had different nonprofits every session, so the ones my group was assigned for the next 3 months were: VCS Richmond State Supported Living Center, Second Mile Mission Center, Missouri City Green/Fort Bend Family Promise.

The first nonprofit my group attended was the Richmond State Supported Living Center, which was certainly a great way to start our volunteering sessions. Once we arrived we were given a tour of most of the facility as well as a summary of what it is that they do there. Along the way we met a couple of the residents and nurses who were so welcoming to us. We went there in late November, and as we came to learn, that is the time they begin to set up Christmas lights and decorations for people in the community to come drive through and get in the holiday spirit. So our task that day was to help repaint some of the decorations/signs as well as go out and set it up. It may not sound super exciting, but with a team like mine everything was so much fun. This session allowed for us to really get to know each other a lot better and start some really great friendships.

In the following month, we attended our second nonprofit which was the Second Mile Mission Center. When we got there they also gave us a small tour of the place as well as an informative talk about how they began doing what they do and what it is they provide for the community. They explained how they provide food for those families who don’t have the resources to buy it on their own, as well as how they have emotional and financial assistance for these families to get back on their feet. So that day we¬†helped by registering the families, making sure they got the correct number in the order they came in (which is really important to them), and by distributing the food out in the back. Once all the families went through, we went to the pantry where we made over 700 boxes of food for the next open pantry. We were all so tired at the end of it, but still left with smiles on our faces after seeing right then and there the help we had given that day.

The last individual group session we went to was with Second Mile Mission/Fort Bend Family Promise, which happened to be my personal favorite. From the moment we got off the bus we were put to work with no time wasted. We were divided into four groups, and each group was given a family in need whom we were to compete in certain activities for. This might have been the most personal session because we were actually able to spend some time to get to know the family we were helping. We made signs and slogans representing the families and their values, planted a couple of trees, did some more gardening, and washed cars; all of which we were ways to be able to earn money for our assigned families. Though it was cold and rainy, we did our best to make sure those families got the rewards they rightfully deserved while still having a fun time doing it.

The final group session that involved community work was alongside all the other teams at the YMCA County Park Project. Here we remained in our groups and split up within the park to complete different tasks. My group, was assigned to building new picnic tables to replace the old ones. Some of the other teams were put to work in the garden, while some had to build archery targets, and others were assigned to decorate/paint the garbage cans amongst several other activities. Here we had a lunch while some of the cities most prominent figures in our community, which was an unforgettable experience.

Finally March came around, in which the final group session was held. It was held at the same place as orientation since we were doing evaluations and a small luncheon rehearsal. For our final project we all made videos that described our YIP experiences, which were to be displayed at the luncheon later that month.

A few weeks later, the Investment in Youth luncheon was held to thank all of the donors and volunteers as well as to announce the scholarship winners. It was a lot of fun to attend and spend some time with our groups whom we we had gotten so attached to. Saying goodbye was bittersweet, at least for me, because we had gotten used to seeing each other month. Needless to say, we could not leave without exchanging social media to keep in touch because we really did become good friends.

My advice for people considering joining the program for 2016-2017 is to just do it. It seriously opens your eyes to all that is going on in your community and changes your perspective on so many different things. It also doesn’t hurt that by joining, you are signing up to meet some of the nicest friends you’ll ever make. I am so thankful for my experience in the Youth in Philanthropy program, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it.