By: Sarah Dynia, Allow Good Northwestern Chapter Member & Founder/President of Stuffed Love
In my freshman year at Northwestern University, I took a class called Learning Philanthropy. This class focused on the importance of philanthropic giving in a constructive way, ensuring that donations went as far as they could to make an impact on an issue you cared about. As a passionate supporter of youth engagement and leadership development, I was excited when one of my friends introduced me to Allow Good. The potential to empower local youth to create change in their community and promote service learning through this organization is exciting and gratifying, and I am so honored and proud to be part of this organization.
I want to empower young people to believe in their ability to create change through their unique talent and skills, just as I have been empowered to do. In eighth grade, I founded my own nonprofit project, Stuffed Love. Stuffed Love’s mission is to remind people that they are cared for and loved through hand-sewn stuffed pillows. We distribute thousands of these pillows to various groups, such as children with congenital heart defects, veterans, and the homeless. Being a leader for a nonprofit is an exciting and rewarding job. You get to see your passion and drive come to fruition and help people. As a young adult in nonprofit leadership, I am constantly asked how and why I manage Stuffed Love. Both adults and youth are curious on how I can handle being a young student and taking care of all the tasks related to keeping Stuffed Love going. From these interactions, I have noticed that youth are often assumed to be unable to make an impact. Volunteering, and especially leadership roles within volunteering, are usually reserved for the grown-ups. Many high school students do not engage in service beyond hour requirements needed to graduate or pass a class. Additionally, service leadership is a role typically constrained within a school-specific setting, and can be treated as a resume bullet point instead of a place to feel empowered and engaged. This highlights a critical gap in service knowledge in youth: their important role in service and philanthropic actions in their communities.
Modeling and facilitating service and leadership are my favorite parts of my role with Stuffed Love and Allow Good’s work. I have been able to present to students and work with them one-on-one to grow their own service projects. My message to these students is always focused on the tremendous impact that they can have on their communities. I want these students to know that their age does not prevent them from changing the world. My work with Allow Good also helps me to share this message through philanthropy. As an Allow Good facilitator, I want to break down the stereotype that philanthropy can only be done by rich old men. By teaching young adults how to be effective philanthropists, I believe we are setting these students up for a life of philanthropy and service where they know they can be agents of change.
Service and philanthropy are not age-exclusive. Through my work with Allow Good and Stuffed Love, I am able to influence the way that young people think about philanthropy. We need to motivate the youth of today to be activists for change. By teaching them the skills needed to be effective philanthropists, we are preparing students to take the things they see as needing to improve and fix them. I am so excited to get into a classroom and share my lessons on philanthropy with my students and teach them that they have the ability to change the world.