Two dozen Quad-Cities high-school recently learned many important things about their community and made decisions on grants that help serve those needs.

The Quad Cities Community Foundation has had the Teens for Tomorrow philanthropy program since fall 2002.

Through the Quad Cities Community Foundation’s Teens for Tomorrow (T4T) program, the youth philanthropy group of students announced six recipients of the total of $10,000 in annual grants. They are:

  • Dress for Success Quad Cities’ HireHER program, to support women on the job search — $1,300
  • Project Renewal Inc.’s Summer Youth Program 2021, to support positive educational, recreational, and social-emotional activities — $2,500
  • Tapestry Farms, to help refugees overcome barriers — $2,500
  • The Literacy Connection Summer School, to support summer tutoring for language development — $500
  • Two Rivers YMCA’s College Prep Outreach for Immigrant Parents, to help immigrant parents with their children’s college preparation and admissions process — $700
  • Well Suited Youth Development Academy, to support wraparound services that help freshman and sophomore boys succeed — $2,500

The grant recipients will direct the money toward programs that support people disproportionately affected by this past year’s economic and educational challenges, including refugees, low-income students, and women

Kathleen Badejo is a grantmaking specialist at the Community Foundation.

displaced from the workforce, among others.

According to Kathleen Badejo, grantmaking specialist at the Community Foundation, T4T not only teaches students about philanthropy but also allows them to act on what they have learned in meaningful ways.

“Often times in education there’s a dynamic where adults hold all the knowledge and students just have to listen,” said Badejo. “With this program, students and their peers actually get to decide where those dollars go and who they want to support. It’s an empowering experience for them to step into that role of being decision-makers.”

The program is also a valuable tool for community-building among young Quad Citizens.

“This is a chance for students all across the Quad-Cities region to get to know their peers and find camaraderie with like-minded individuals,” Badejo said. For some students, the impact of the experience outlives the program’s duration. “Some teens have stayed in touch with those organizations and ultimately ended up volunteering for them.”

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Each year, T4T students gain first-hand experience in philanthropy and the grantmaking process, from exploring community needs and creating grant opportunities to evaluating applicants and, ultimately, awarding grants.

The T4T group from 2019-20 meets at the foundation offices, 852 Middle Road, Bettendorf.

With the program running over the past school year, the students were already used to learning and collaborating in pandemic conditions. Meeting remotely over Zoom and observing social distancing protocols did not prevent them from sparking new connections with the community.

“People tend to only be familiar with organizations that directly serve them, not the ones which fill the needs they may not think about,” said Bettendorf High School junior Noah Raso, who has participated in the program two years in a row. “For me, the key to discovering the depths of my community was joining Teens for Tomorrow.”

T4T – which was launched in fall 2002 — allows students to help the community they’re also part of, said member Marvin Roebuck, a junior at Pleasant Valley High School. “You can make a difference, even if you don’t have money. You have these programs you may not have even heard of.”

He liked actually being able to make an impact in the community. Besides T4T, Roebuck volunteers for his school robotics team and has worked at STEM camps.

“It helps us see the community, and other areas that we might not have seen before,” he said of volunteering. “It can help us see what’s wrong with the community and what we can actually do to help it.”

Students work together on goals

This school year, about 25 students participated and they typically meet 8-10 times on Sunday afternoons, once a month during the school year, Badejo said.

Kelly Thompson recently held a virtual Community Foundation talk with Teens for Tomorrow members Wini Aboyure and Esmeralda Jinez.

“It’s a chance for them to learn more about philanthropy and set a strong foundation about what is philanthropy, why is it important,” she said, noting they learn about Q-C needs and how the grants help.

Each group discusses the needs and choose three top priorities to serve – this year, they were education equity, social inequities, and racial injustice. The students defined each goal and influenced their choice of grants. They reviewed applications, made site visits, discussed them among their peers and made recommendations for grants.

Each year, organizations are encouraged to apply and seek grants that meet specific criteria, Badejo said. Applications are due in mid-February and grant decisions made by late April.

The categories were described for applicants:

  • Education Equity: Nonprofits directly supporting students with resources to succeed in a well-rounded education. Programs with a focus on those who face inequalities due to financial or racial disparities will be given priority for funding.
  • Racial Injustice: Nonprofits providing awareness of racial injustice, and providing opportunities to Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.
  • Social Inequities: Nonprofits promoting the well-being of individuals who face challenges related to poverty, hunger, health, and/or homelessness. Programs that understand how racial disparities intersect with these inequities are highly encouraged to apply.

“One of the important things about Teens 4 Tomorrow and why it exists is, students get to learn about their community, and learn how to learn about their community,” Kelly Thompson, the foundation’s vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives, said. “They

Kelly Thompson is vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives for the foundation.

learned about things they might never have known were there, and now you can do that forever.”

“And learning how to give back in new ways,” she said.

The T4T students split up into eight groups and each reviewed a certain number of applications – 21 came in altogether for 2021.

“The good thing about Teens 4 Tomorrow is that, we have so many people and we all collaborated really well,” said Allison Suen, a senior at Pleasant Valley High School. “I enjoyed being able to meet those nonprofits and programs and see what they do for our community.”

She also volunteers with ImpactLife (formerly Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center) a few days a month, teaches 7th and 8th graders in her school band program over the summer, and past summers, has done a variety of other volunteer activities.

“Volunteering is important because we live in this beautiful community and we should just give back to it, as a way to say thank you to all the people that have helped us,” Suen said.

T4T is another way to help make a big impact in the area, she said.

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“It was nice to hear what everyone was thinking about. Basically, I listened to my peers, and thought about what other nonprofits and organizations are doing in our community.”

Allison Suen is a Pleasant Valley High senior and member of Teens for Tomorrow.

“It was hard to choose, to say what are we going to limit, and what are we not going to include or what are we not going to allow?” Suen said. “Sometimes, they don’t fit under the umbrella of that topic.”

She supported the Two Rivers YMCA college-prep outreach for immigrant parents, fully funding them.

“Their project really fit into the topics we had chosen for our grants,” she said. “It’s pointed toward immigrants; and also the education equity. I really liked the fact that it was high-schoolers helping high-schoolers, and it wasn’t like some adult counselor in Massachusetts pushing out these videos. They’re made from people in our community, to help people around here.”

Layla Eygabroad, a junior at Rock Island High School, also volunteers with Key Club at school and at Christian Care homeless shelter in Rock Island.

“My favorite part of volunteering is giving back to the community,” she said. “What’s so gratifying about working with Teens 4 Tomorrow is learning about different ways to give back.”

Tapestry Farms, a Teens for Tomorrow grant recipient, helps refugees in the Q-C connect, contribute, and thrive. Yvette Furaha and Aline Niyokwizera attended English classes together at Scott Community College’s West Davenport campus after they came to Davenport.

Eygabroad said they did virtual or in-person visits with each applicant and heard presentations on them all before making a decision.

“It was hard to come to a decision on some of them, but we collaborated and compromised on many,” she said. “We decided to partially fund some.”

“We were looking at what we cared about – how they fit into what we defined, how many people they would affect and how far our grant money would go,” Eygabroad said. “We took all of that input into consideration.”

Students made presentations on their applicants to the whole group, recommending a funding level.

“At the site visits, we tried to determine the impact they made,” Roebuck said. They also gave preference to a group if they met more than one criteria, he said.

Eygabroad said they fully funded Project Renewal, since they had such a big impact on the community around them.

“This was one where they fit into two categories – because it was helping with social inequities and also fell into the racial inequality,” she said. “One hundred percent of their participants are part of minority groups.”

Run out of a private home in downtown Davenport, Project Renewal provides free  after-school, summer care and enrichment activities to K-12 students in the Davenport school district.

Applications are currently being accepted from local teenagers who wish to participate in the 2021-22 Teens for Tomorrow Program.

“It is my hope that my fellow classmates will take advantage of this program not only to get involved in the here and now, but also to be empowered to make a difference the rest of their lives,” Raso added.

Students can visit www.QCCommunityFoundation.org/t4t to fill out the application, which is due by June 15, 2021. The program is open to high school students in Rock Island and Scott counties.

Students are typically involved in T4T for two years, and up to 30 students at a time, Badejo said. The program includes some high school grads who serve as mentors to members, as well as a current senior (who volunteered as a sophomore and junior).

The Q-C Community Foundation also encourages financial donations to support the program. There is an endowment at the foundation that also supports it, Thompson said.

 

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.