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NNYCF establishes second youth philanthropy council

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POTSDAM — Philanthropy is a trend in Northern New York growing just as popular with youths as fashion and social media.

Teenagers’ desire to help their neighbors and improve their communities has spread throughout Jefferson County over the past three years since the establishment of the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council at Watertown High School, and more schools want to become involved. Because of that, the Community Foundation has dedicated an additional $10,000 to establish a second Youth Philanthropy Council, this time at Potsdam Central School. The total awarded for the 2013-14 school year is $20,000, with the other $10,000 for recommendations to be made by the Watertown council.

“We’ve met with administration at the (Potsdam) school, and the plan is to have representatives from the Watertown council — both students and advisers — go to the school to help work with them to develop a model to work with,” said Rande S. Richardson, Community Foundation executive director.

Potsdam Central High School students will be selected for the new council by the end of this school year, and the hope, Mr. Richardson said, is to have the council begin work by the start of the next school year. He said that although the model at Watertown High School has worked well, the foundation hopes to empower Potsdam Central students to design their own program.

Potsdam Central High School Principal Joann M. Chambers said more information will be given to faculty at a meeting today.

“I just see so much potential in this, certainly in the leadership development opportunities for our students,” she said. These kinds of opportunities are what keep kids engaged in school. This is real. They’re given an adult task here.”

Potsdam Central was chosen as the St. Lawrence County Youth Philanthropy Council site since the foundation already has a partnership with the district. The Potsdam Educational Opportunities Fund, which is administered by the foundation, was established last year to support enhancements to the school.

Because schools have seen the success of the Youth Philanthropy Council in Watertown, their students, too, want in on the action. The Community Foundation is exploring how to include delegates from other schools, but Mr. Richardson said the foundation also doesn’t want the councils to grow too much too quickly.

“I think I echo sentiments of the board when I say this is the most well-received program we’ve had the past five years,” he said.

Through the Youth Philanthropy Council in Watertown, students have made recommendations totaling $22,500 to the foundation’s board of directors. Projects supported through those recommendations, which were approved by the board, include improvement to sports fields, hemoglobin machines for school-based health centers, playground construction, and upgrading of space at local nonprofits, among many other categories.

Mr. Richardson said that because local youths have been engaged in philanthropy throughout the past few years, the Community Foundation has to “take advantage of that opportunity” to teach youth that generosity goes a long way.

“Learning goes in both directions,” he said. “Adults gain insight on what the next generation is going to fund. They do look at the world in a different way.”

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