Give Next: middle schoolers learning about the importance of giving

By the time you read this, the 2016-17 school year will have become history. A certain group of eighth graders that comprised Aaron Jackson’s (AJ’s) leadership class at Wellington Middle School will be entering the summer months with a new perspective on the meaning and importance of charitable giving. Since last fall, they have been participants in the Bohemian Foundation and the Community Foundation of Colorado’s “Give Next” program designed to give middle and high school students hands-on experience in charitable giving to non-profit organizations.

Since 2012, Give Next has been part of the Poudre and Thompson Valley schools, offering a practical way to give students the experience of giving. Here’s how it works: Wellington resident Lisa Clay, owner of Advance Tank and Construction, made the decision to contribute $5,000 to the Give Next program. The leadership class at Wellington Middle School was challenged with deciding which non-profits were to be recipients.

The class began by attending a non-profit fair. Then they formed committees and wrote a mission statement. After discussion they agreed to focus on-profits committed to youth dealing with disabilities. They spread the word to non-profits and more than 20 expressed interest in applying for the grant. Each organization submitted a formal application created by the leadership class.

The students prepared scripts and set to work contacting each of the non-profits who had applied in person. “They called each organization, introduced themselves, explained their mission and asked questions,” AJ said. This was a new and challenging experience for the students.

Then they came together to create a three-tiered system for evaluating their findings. They set priorities to help guide them to final decisions. AJ observed as the students came to a couple of conclusions: “They felt strongly about making sure the organization had a genuine passion for what they were doing. They also insisted that the grant be designated for a specific purpose. They wanted tangible results and didn’t want to see the money disappear into a general fund,” AJ said.

Their final choices were Hearts and Horses based in Loveland and Adams Camp that provides outdoor experiences for youth with disabilities and their families across Colorado.

The leadership class celebrated their efforts with a ceremony which included a chili and cornbread dinner donated by Austin’s in Fort Collins and attended by Give Next donor Lisa Clay, representatives of the Community Foundation of Colorado and the Bohemian Foundation and the grateful non-profit recipients who accepted checks from the students.

“I think this is probably the most important and lasting learning experience the kids will take from the class,” AJ said.