Teen Student-Athletes Engage to Make Grants that Build Community

After investing more than $1.9 million in 70 initiatives in four years through our Great Ideas Initiative, Children’s Services Council wanted to do something different. In 2019, we piloted a student-led grant-making project modeled after the Brooklyn Community Foundation Neighborhood Strength Initiative. This model for neighborhood growth engaged high school student-athletes as key decision makers in local investments.

The Great Ideas Initiative, launched in 2016, offers grants to grassroots nonprofits to develop creative approaches to solve a problem, manage change and deliver innovative plans for serving children and families. To boost CSC’s philanthropic engagement and leadership in 2019, particularly in under-represented communities in the agricultural area around Lake Okeechobee, we worked through the Student ACES organization, itself a GII awardee in 2017.

We provided the high school student-athletes participating in the program with $30,000 to support initiatives they selected that would improve conditions for a healthy, youth-oriented community. After researching and designing the grant process, the students chose six grassroots organizations received grants including nonprofits that support creative mentoring programs and new school uniforms.

“It helped me be a leader. Our ideas turned into action,” one student said. “I learned how to work better with others,” said another. The experience motivated three high school girls on the GII Team to start their own nonprofit mentoring middle school girls. 

The teens researched community needs and aspirations, outlined grant criteria, scored more than 25 applications and then awarded $5,000 grants to six nonprofits. The students learned about the different demographics in their community, how to get to the root causes of problems and work together as a team – even across cultural differences. As a result of the pilot, CSC learned the project needed more time than we allowed; site visits weren’t possible, for example. We grew to appreciate the complexity – academic, athletic, employment – of working with high school students. We saw the need for greater investment in training and student preparation, and were delighted to see the students gain skills that will translate into future success.

About Healthy, Safe, Strong Stories

Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County continues to serve local children and families with the same mission that’s motivated us since 1986: to keep our county’s children healthy, safe and strong. This #HealthySafeStrong series highlights some of the programs and services we provide that help our children succeed in school. This project is one example of our work to improve children’s literacy, for which CSC has been honored by the national Grade-Level Reading Campaign as a “Pacesetter” community. To contact Children’s Services Council, please click here.