Building a tradition of philanthropy with Vital Youth

We are counting on the youth to be our future.

How well are we listening to their voices, opinions and knowledge? Are youth included in planning, policy, and the decision-making processes that impact their lives?

Vital Youth participants

Here at the Victoria Foundation we have engaged youth through our programs and through Victoria’s Youth Vital Signs – it’s a report we use to measure the vitality of our city from a youth perspective; it’s a way to listen to our youth, and to take action.

In keeping with the impactful messaging of Victoria’s Vital Signs, we’ve renamed our youth program. What you used to know as Youth in Philanthropy is now Vital Youth. We thought this was an appropriate change because of the role that Vital Signs has in our community, and in the decision-making processes of these groups.

At the foundation, we have Vital Youth in seven high schools making granting decisions based on Vital Signs. These schools include Reynolds, Belmont, Frances Kelsey, Oak Bay and Victoria High schools, St. Michaels University School, and, in partnership with the Saanich Peninsula Community Foundation, Stelly’s Secondary School.

The Vital Youth program (adopted from the Community Foundations of Canada) provides students with hands-on experience in the realm of philanthropy and community development. Participants are encouraged to examine their values and learn skills that will help them become more active community members as they develop into adults.

Participating schools receive a total of $3,000 each year. Of those funds, $2,500 is granted into the community according to the group’s recommendations and the remaining $500 is deposited into the school’s endowment fund to ensure Vital Youth’s long-term sustainability.

The foundation’s Honorary Governors have been strong supporters of this program since its inception in 2003. Past foundation board members as well as other community members comprise the Honorary Governors. Their funding of two schools last year has provided some wonderful results; the Vital Youth grants have had a tremendous impact on our community.

The Honorary Governors funded both Reynolds and Belmont Secondary Schools once again last year. Both of these groups showed a high level of independence and dedication to the Vital Youth process in their research and granting decisions. After sitting down together to identify their own areas of priority, both groups decided they wanted to focus on organizations offering services to youth.

The Reynolds students had an early-morning site visit to the Victoria READ Society. The group was so impressed with the organization that they recommended their full $2,500 be granted to READ.

The funds allowed READ to provide tuition assistance to children and youth whose academic skills are below grade level, and who come from low income households.

Claire Rettie, the Executive Director of the Society, had this to say in commendation of the Reynolds students: “I would like to acknowledge the professionalism of the Reynolds student team. I have worked with other Youth in Philanthropy participants and READ has been fortunate to receive funds from other groups. This group of students was exceptional – smart, provocative, challenging and engaged. In a social and funding climate that is increasingly challenging, working with these young people provided me with a much-needed burst of energy.”

The students of Belmont school identified youth services as a priority for their group. Their research led them to two groups whose work particularly resonated with the values of the team. They split their funds and granted $1,000 to the Child Abuse and Prevention Society for the Mary Manning Centre, and $1,500 to the Young Parents’ Support Network, to be directed to the area of greatest need.

Vital Youth is a gateway to philanthropy for many of these students. While some are already involved in their schools’ leadership groups, others have found the Vital Youth program to be a catalyst for their education about philanthropy and charitable giving. As one of our students last year said in the foundation’s anniversary video, “Being in this program, I now understand the importance of giving back to your community. And when I’m 75 I’ll still be giving. You can count on it.”

We are counting on youth to be our future. The Vital Youth program enables them to be part of decision-making processes and leadership opportunities that impact their lives.

To learn more about the Vital Youth program, please visit our website. Find a full list of the 2010-11 Vital Youth grants here.