MND teaches today’s students to be tomorrow’s philanthropists
By John Stegeman
While Catholic students often have opportunities to do community service work or to go on a mission trip, those at Mount Notre Dame (MND) High School have a unique chance to serve in a different way — through the practice of philanthropy.
For the past several years Mount Notre Dame students have had the opportunity to serve on the Mount Notre Dame Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC) The council, which is run by the students, has allocated more than $30,000 dollars to area non-profits since its founding and the council is poised to donate another $5,000 this year. According to the council’s website, the funds have been made possible with donations from Roger Grein, the Dennis and Lois Doyle Foundation, Steve Kissing and Angela Nolte, Tony and Jennie Reed, Doug and Nancy Manwaring, as well as other donors and student fundraising.
Mount Notre Dame instructor Todd Forman is the program director of the Youth Philanthropy Council. He started a similar club at Moeller High School and took over the MND program when he was hired there. Forman said the YPC has between 65-70 girls this year.
Forman explained that the YPC is given a sum of money, and it then goes through a year-long process of determining which non-profit agency in Cincinnati should receive the funding.
“We’re kind of priming the pump, if you will,” Forman said. “We’re getting them excited about giving away money. I have to catch myself when I say giving away. They’re really investing the money in the non-profits. They’re seeing that their money is going to make a difference. This year with each of them giving $20 (of their own money), it has really beefed up their investment in the program.”
The YPC is an extracurricular program. Students meet twice a month and the meetings average an hour and a half. In addition to that time commitment, students also conduct interviews, phone calls and go on site visits as part of the process to figure out what organizations will get funding. Three groups are chosen, receiving $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.
Laura Jansing, a senior at MND and co-chair of the YPC Executive Committee said narrowing down a long list of worthy organizations isn’t an easy one for a group of high school students, but splitting up the work makes the task more bearable.
“It’s extremely difficult,” she said. “Really, when it comes down to it, everybody is deserving. You can plead a case for everybody, and they’re all wonderful and have wonderful causes. What helps narrow it down for everybody is … we break it down into six or seven per group. So you’re getting a lot of different agencies that you can see as a whole, but when you have your small group you’re more focused on one or two agencies.”
Jansing joined the club as a sophomore at the urging of Forman.
“I had no idea what philanthropy was,” Jansing said. “Once I got involved I thought it was really interesting. What’s so wonderful about YPC is, honestly, no high school freshman has ever heard of philanthropy. If you said that to them, maybe one in 100 would know what that is. What’s so wonderful is that it is really educational.”
Senior Katie Donerden, a group leader on the council, has been a member all four years of her high school career.
“Freshman year I more followed along, just trying to get the idea,” Donerden said. “Sophomore and junior year definitely I started really looking at the websites and reading about what they do and paying more attention to the importance of philanthropy and how it makes a difference. This year, I’m keeping track of not just my group members but keeping in contact with the agency leaders and asking them, ‘What do you guys do?’ I’m looking forward to making site visits, which we will be doing this month.”
Forman said the experience earned by Donerden, Jansing and others is not only educational, but also practical. YPC alumni frequently reference their time on the council in college admissions interviews and essays.
The program is affiliated with student philanthropy organization Magnified Giving, which was founded by Grein. Forman is the program director of that organization as well. Magnified Giving involved similar philanthropy programs at 36 other high schools. Grein, who has his own inspirational story, has served in many ways as a role model to the students on the YPC.
“It’s few and far between you come across a truly extraordinary person,” Jansing said. “I give Mr. Grein all the credit in the world because he is a fantastic man and is such a role model for philanthropy.”
Perhaps the best aspect of the YPC, however, is that as an extension of Catholic education, it instills in its members the desire to help others.
“I really give Mr. Grein and Mr. Forman a lot of credit for teaching us the basics of philanthropy,” Jansing said. “With our Catholic school education, it’s going to carry on and inform the values we’ll have later in life.”