Last year, Josh and I, along with a few other students at our school, had the opportunity to participate in the Vital Youth program run by the Victoria Foundation. Through this program, students work together to allocate a grant to a local charitable organization of their choice.
For both of us, this was our first year in the Vital Youth program. Initially, it seemed really easy, just choosing a charity. After we started, we realized just how challenging this program can be. While the grant can be divided between more than one organization, we were still left with the choice of which ones to pick. Especially in a year where so many areas were lacking in funding and more people than ever were relying on these organizations for basic necessities, it seemed like an impossible choice to make.
Especially with volunteer opportunities being extremely limited during the pandemic, many young people like us have found it hard to get involved. We don’t have the financial means to make these kinds of huge donations and without being able to volunteer our time, we’re out of options. This program gave us a chance to contribute and to help make a big impact in our community. Our committee eventually decided to give the grant to the Cool-Aid Society, particularly for housing.
We’ve all seen the impacts of the lack of affordable housing on our communities. So many people in the Victoria area are living without consistent access to housing and especially as we were heading into colder weather at the time, we decided that it was the area most in need of the grant.
Our experience in Vital Youth has been invaluable. Not only did this program allow us to make a difference, but it also helps to target and correct generational biases in philanthropy by allowing this choice to be made by students, rather than older folks with the means to donate these funds. It empowers youth to get involved and stay involved in their communities. It creates a connection, not only with the people you collaborate with while deciding which charity to choose, but with your community as you learn to better understand the needs and diversities of your area.
As students and as volunteers, we can honestly say that our experience in this program has been one of the most enriching and impactful volunteer experiences we’ve had. We cannot recommend this program enough and really encourage students to consider joining. The more students, the more diverse the group and the more diverse the understanding of the community’s needs, so we definitely encourage students to get involved and advocate for the issues that matter most to them. We’re both so excited to work with the Vital Youth program again and can’t wait to experience the program this year with hopefully fewer impacts from the pandemic.
By Mia Penney and Josh Savea, Parkland Secondary