A young mother, struggling to make ends meet, receives a surprise gift when she delivers her baby girl. As she is preparing to return home to the challenges of raising a child, the nurse hands her a soft flannel bag with this note, “Congratulations on your new arrival! We realize parenting is a big responsibility, so we decided to give you some starters for help. We hope that you and your child have a healthy relationship. Good Luck!” Inside, she finds 2 outfits, diapers, and all of the necessities for a newborn. Who was responsible for this gift? Members of the Keystone High School Family Living Class and Teen Institute sewed the bags and purchased and packed the items with the help of a Service Learning Grant from the Youth Fund Advisory Committee (YFAC) of the Community Foundation of Lorain County.
Service Learning links community service to curriculum areas. The students at Keystone used skills learned in their Family Living Class to sew the bags and decide which items to purchase. Math was then used to determine a budget and to determine how to fit the items into the bags.
Led by the vision and generosity of past Board Chair, Ben Norton, Foundation Directors established the YFAC in April of 1998. YFAC is made up of 8th through 12th graders from across Lorain County and meets monthly during the school year to learn about the Foundation, grantmaking, development and issues affecting youth. The teens review their own grant proposals and make funding recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
The YFAC was entering its fifth year, and Foundation staff felt strongly that its grantmaking should be more narrowly focused. “Our YFAC members are experts on what’s happening in the classrooms because that’s where they spend their days,” said Ramona Grigsby, Program Associate. “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.” A request for proposals was developed, and from fall of 2002 to the spring of 2003, the YFAC approved 34 projects totaling over $5500 in grants. The range of projects was astounding. Students at Learwood Middle School in Avon Lake built a pond and nature habitat in the school’s courtyard. The Westwood Junior High Signers in Elyria include both regular education and multihandicapped students who meet to learn sign language and perform throughout the community.
The YFAC is already gearing up for another busy year. They’ll soon be reviewing applications from teachers for its latest round of Service Learning grants. Applications may be obtained by calling Ramona at the Foundation office at 440.984.7390.