May 2012 --- Since its inception in 2002, the Teens for Tomorrow (T4T) youth philanthropy program has welcomed 238 high school participants, and those students have granted more than $60,000 to the community. As we celebrate the first decade of T4T and the difference these teens make in our community, we also celebrate the difference T4T has made in the lives of the students.
Over the last 10 years, T4T has seen numerous bright-eyed students hesitantly walk into the Community Foundation's board room for their first T4T meeting. Many of these students had never heard of the Foundation, much less had any knowledge of the words "philanthropy" or "grantmaking," and what those words mean.
In reflecting on her very first T4T meeting in 2002 with the inaugural group, 2005 Alleman High School graduate Sarah Bush recalls a room full of teenagers, no two alike. There were students from all the area high schools; young ladies and young men, some interested in math, some in athletics, some in music, and some in becoming more involved in their communities.
"My first T4T meeting was an amazing experience," stated Ms. Bush. "There were students from across the Quad Cities with different experiences and interests, yet they were all in the same room sharing ideas about working towards a common goal."
That common goal--exploring community needs and determining where money should be granted to achieve the greatest impact--has given students both tangible and intangible experiences. "Many times teens aren't given a lot of responsibility other than the usual homework and help around the house," said Ms. Bush. "Visiting nonprofit organizations, reviewing their grant applications, and working through the deliberation process of awarding funds was an empowering experience. T4T gave us an opportunity to make decisions as a group that had a direct effect on our community."
The influence of T4T in Sarah's life is immeasurable. "I was shy and not involved in sports, so T4T gave me the opportunity to find my own personality and the voice behind it," said Ms. Bush. "Because of T4T, I became friends with students throughout the Quad Cities and made education and career connections I had never imagined would be possible."
Sarah is currently the Senior Marketing and Communications Associate for OutcomesMTM in West Des Moines, Iowa. Sarah continues to show her leadership and philanthropic spirit in her community. In her free time, she created "Pretty Does Nails" with her roommate (a former esthetician). They visit residents at a local assisted-living home to provide free manicures to the women there. All tips given by grateful residents are given to Face to Face International, a nonprofit that helps those who suffer from facial deformities caused by birth or trauma.
Each T4T participant's story is unique, but all the teens share in the life-changing experience of being a part of this program. And many, such as Sarah, are actively giving back to their communities with their time, talent, and treasure.
Visit Teens for Tomorrow to learn more about the program or Teens for Tomorrow Grants to explore applying for a T4T grant.