About the Youth Fund Advisory Committee
Looking back on 30 years of history, with over $50 million disbursed out into Lorain County as grants and scholarships, The Community Foundation of Lorain County has made a significant impact on the lives of local residents. But the project that will mostly likely have the greatest significance on our society 30 years in the future is the Youth Fund Advisory Committee (YFAC).
Ben Norton, Past Board Chairman of the Foundation, led the effort to create the Youth Fund in 1998. “I wanted to provide an opportunity to teach philanthropy to high school students since such a program is not available in the schools,” says Norton. “The Youth Fund not only brings students together from different types of schools – inner-city, rural, large, small, but it also familiarizes them with the challenges and opportunities in Lorain County. Hopefully, this experience will encourage these young people to become future leaders, board members and decision-makers.” With Norton’s vision and financial support, a group of teenagers representing county high schools from Columbia Station to Lorain to Wellington was assembled as the first Youth Fund Advisory Committee.
The YFAC meets monthly to learn about development and grantmaking, and to discuss issues affecting Lorain County’s young people. Under the guidance of Foundation staff member Ramona Grigsby, they carefully review and recommend grants on an annual basis. Originally, YFAC grants went to agencies for youth programs, but, in 2002, the committee members focused their grantmaking exclusively on school service learning projects. “Our YFAC members are experts on what’s happening in the classrooms because that’s where they spend their days,” says Grigsby. “Fearing duplication with the Foundation’s Grants Committee, we wanted to let the YFAC make an impact where they have experience. It was then a given that we turn the focus of their grantmaking to Service Learning.” Service learning links community service to curriculum areas. For example, a school food drive becomes more than a volunteer project when students need to calculate the volume of the cans collected.
By encouraging their peers to volunteer their time to community projects, the YFAC has taken a leadership role in the development of other youth in Lorain County. And their fellow students have inspired the YFAC to take on volunteer projects of their own. From cooking meals at the Salvation Army to packing care packages for the homeless, these teens are rolling up their sleeves and getting involved.
Thirty years from now these students will have the knowledge, skills, and the passion to tackle important issues affecting their own children, all as a result of The Community Foundation’s Youth Fund Advisory Committee.