For a long time, I connected philanthropy to wealth. In my mind a philanthropist was a rich person who donated their money to charity. This definition gives the idea that only people in an extreme position of power and privilege can help the less fortunate. It has been two years since I first became a part of Vital Youth and during this time have learned many lessons. This program has left me, and, I believe, all the students who participate, with a feeling of hope and intrigue – we have been given the knowledge that we are able to be a part of something we thought was out of our reach. I think that the powerful thing about giving once is that it makes you feel like you can do it again.
To celebrate the end of the year for the 2019 Vital Youth program, the Victoria Foundation hosted an evening at the Grand Pacific Hotel. The event brought together all the student committees, their families, and representatives from the many charities who received grants. We all gathered together and saw the magnitude of this project for the first time, and there were so many of us. All people with a common passion, and a common goal. For me the most important part of the evening was listening to the experiences of my peers. Each student or group of students who spoke did so with conviction and enthusiasm, and I could see that every one of us felt that we had done something great and were ready to do more. We had a sense of comradery; though few of us had met the students from other schools, we held, and hold, a shared experience and passion. The representatives from the different charities were a reminder of the good work that has been done and what we, the new generation of philanthropists, still have to do.
There is no doubt that the work our groups do is impactful, but the greatest impact this initiative has is on the students who participate in it. We are growing up in a world with many terrifying problems and working to fix them will soon be our responsibility. I think we feel a sense hopelessness, we fear we are only individuals, that we cannot make a difference. My two years in Vital Youth have helped to change my mindset, and I hope and believe it has done the same for my peers. We have felt what it feels like to help and change things, and now we believe we can. I am so hopeful seeing all my fellow students with fire and passion in their eyes. We have been given a place to start, all we have to do is something, anything and we are all ready to do just that.
Wren Kerslake is a grade 12 student at Victoria High School and has been a participant in the Vital Youth program for the past two years.