service learning

Living in the Present Tense

By: Erin Cunnea, Allow Good Loyola Chapter Member & Junior studying English, Math, and Theatre Secondary Education. This was Erin's first year as a facilitator at Nicholas Senn High School in the Edgewater neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. 

"I have never liked when adults call children and teens “the leaders of tomorrow.” Don’t
get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment: youth hold so much promise as they mature in
experiences and wisdom, but this statement ignores the experiences, talent, creativity, and
maturity teens already possess. Underestimating youth has become such a habit that we often
refer to them only in the future tense – the next generation of change, of leaders.

Allow Good turns that notion on its head. I was first drawn to the organization when I
heard about it from a friend who was involved. I couldn’t believe its mission: give a classroom of high schoolers $1,000 and, through a semester-long curriculum, guide them through the process of researching non-profit organizations, reviewing a grant application, vetting presentations, and lobbying and debating over fund allocation. Describing what we did in the classroom sounds daunting, but in motivation is simple. Allow Good empowers youth to address needs in the community and affect real change through philanthropy. I did not teach Mark Zuckerberg. I taught a Nigerian immigrant who wants to help other immigrants struggling with the same issues he faced when his family arrived in Chicago. He is a philanthropist. Bill Gates was not in my class, but *Kyle was. He debated passionately about the importance of addressing immigrant and refugee mental health as a primary concern and the erasure of torture survivors’ experiences. He is a philanthropist. Oprah never sat in one of my desks, but *Gianna did. She pointed out the necessity of establishing trust between an organization and the community it serves – she pointed out the organization we chose had a variety of programs that talked to young men of color about gang involvement in a safe environment, and that it also provided clothing, food, and safety for single mothers and their children. She is a philanthropist. One student spoke to me about her future in college. Several discussed past and current volunteerism at the organizations we were researching. When the representatives from five of the organizations came to lobby for the grant, one of the students’ main questions was, “What opportunities do you have for young people to get involved?”

Allow Good literally allows teens to capitalize on the good existing within them to affect
the greater good of the world. My class realized that they are unstoppable, and that authentic
change is not created when one’s bank account reaches a magic number or when one reaches a certain age. It happens with 26 high school juniors and seniors, one incredible organization, and a whole lotta good. :) "

*names changed for privacy

Teaching Philanthropy: The Importance of Sharing Leadership

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.

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