The Vital Youth program allows for a transference of power
— Zahura Ahmed
As someone new to the Victoria Foundation, one of my roles is to lead the Vital Youth program. This program offers students a unique opportunity to actively participate in philanthropy and learn about important issues in their communities. Each of the ten Vital Youth schools is funded $2,500, and students must decide which organization(s) is best suited for this funding. Their decision is based on community need and organizational capacity to deliver on these needs. Students conduct research and communicate with organizations to help inform their decision-making. Essentially, they do what we folks in the world of granting do for a living!
Having joined the Foundation mid-way through the program, an aspect of it that has stood out to me is that it allows for a transference of power from adults to youth. Youth are put in positions of leadership and responsibility, and adults are humbled to positions of listening and providing resources and necessary information.
This is powerful, and this is important. To have a program that involves youth in philanthropy is great, but to design this program in a way that views youth as capable decision-makers is key. By doing this, we acknowledge that youth are informed and know their communities, or that if they do not know an organization, they are capable of doing research and asking the right questions. We acknowledge that youth have unique and meaningful perspectives because of the stage of life that they are in. We acknowledge that providing youth with a platform enables them with experience, confidence, and resources to continue similar work as they transition into adulthood. Lastly, we acknowledge the importance of intergenerational connectedness and trust. Ultimately, we contribute to a positive cycle of engaged citizenship.
It was great to see students’ recommendations and rationale, as well as organizations’ responses of gratitude. The thought that students put into their decisions, the impact this has had on organizations, and the connections that have been created between the students and their communities is incredible. Because the program wrapped up as a global pandemic loomed, we were unable to hold a celebration event for these hard-working youth. I would like to end this blog post by acknowledging how incredible these students have been to work with, how excited I am to continue working with them, and how lucky our community is to have them – they play a key role in rising to the challenges of today and thriving into the future.
Zahura Ahmed is the Grants & Youth Programs Associate at the Victoria Foundation.