Philanthropy 101: Let Students Lead

You can do it if you put your mind to it.  Teachers at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School are used to helping students apply this maxim to school work.  Fortunately for the community, they’ve also been helping students put their minds towards fighting hunger.  Jennifer Harrington first started working with the Pantry in 2010 to engage students in community work where they could make a concrete difference.  Since then, students at Brooks have consistently stepped up their philanthropic efforts, culminating in winning last year’s Can Do Community Challenge.  How did they do it?  By letting the students lead.

Last spring, faculty advisors met with student Service Club members to educate them about local hunger and how the Can Do Community Challenge works to alleviate it.  From there, the students took over. Convinced they could make a difference, Club members generated fliers, posters and PA announcements.  Members also structured a competition, meeting with each advisory/home room class to convince them to join in.

Jason Madel, the Brooks teacher who oversaw the winning advisory class, says the Service Club often kept advisory tallies secret, fueling the sense of competition between classes.  “I’d give my students weekly collection updates and encourage them to figure out where other classes stood.  This kept their interest and efforts strong until the very last day.”  Madel accompanied his class on the winners’ field trip to deliver the goods, tour the pantry and enjoy lunch at a local pizza joint.

We’re grateful to Brooks’ students for teaching us once again, that donors come from every corner of the community.  You don’t have to have a trust fund to support a cause you love.  You just have to put your mind to it.