Following an initial gift of $1M by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in the late 80’s, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation created the Youth Field of Interest Fund in 1994 and used it encourage high school aged students to join together to establish the Youth Grant Committee. To date, the Youth Grant Committee that serves its Grand Rapids area peers has awarded 227 grants, totaling $1,012,000.
Hitting the million dollar milestone makes this year’s Youth Grant Committee awards all that much more special.
Around 200 teens have served on the 17-year-old committee which awards grants to fund local programs that have been benefiting West Michigan youth ever since. The members of the committee are from Kent County public, private and home schools.
This year, the task of selecting the grant recipients was daunting because the committee received nearly $200,000 in grant requests from local nonprofits, but had just $45,000 in grant money to award.
“We started with a big job and this was paired with an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest among our committee members—people had received services or had volunteered for the organizations applying for the grants and they spoke very passionately about them,” said Mackenzie Swart, a senior at Northview High School. “We had to respect their opinions, but while looking at the bigger picture, focusing on selecting programs that would benefit the largest number of youth. It was a good lesson in being objective.”
The nonprofits receiving grants from the Youth Grant Committee for 2012 include Worldwide Christian Schools, VSA Arts of Michigan - Grand Rapids, Specialized Language Development Center, R.E.A.A.L., Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Track Club Summer Youth Program, Comprehensive Therapy Center, City of Grand Rapids, Calvin College and Baxter Community Center.
As a result of the support of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the youth program, philanthropy in Michigan has been forever transformed for the better.
For more information about the Youth Grant Committee, please visit www.grfoundation.org/youthgrants.
Grand Rapids Community Foundation leads Kent County in making positive, sustainable change. With its endowment, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation supports local nonprofits, leads significant social change and helps donors achieve their philanthropic goals. For more information, please visit www.grfoundation.org.