Centering Youth Voice in Grantmaking

Student perspectives play a central role in Give Next

Centering youth voice is a critical component of Give Next, a school-based youth grantmaking program for middle and high school students in Larimer County. Since 2021, The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) has done just that, by providing a student perspective on the Give Next curriculum.

What is YAC?

YAC was created as one way Give Next shifts power to youth and connects them to each other across different schools and age groups. YAC is composed of nine middle and high schoolers from Poudre and Thompson School Districts who meet monthly to discuss and provide input about Give Next to Bohemian Foundation staff, who manage the program. YAC members offer unique insights about their Give Next experience. Give Next centers and uplifts student voice so Give Next student participants know they have the power to shape Give Next and have real impact in the community.

“The Give Next YAC has taught me more about Give Next and their overall goal to shift power to youth,” said Samantha, a third-year YAC member. “It has taught me valuable team discussion skills and provided experience for what it’s like to work with people of all age groups.”

Pam Kilness is a retired high school counselor who supports Give Next as a Teacher Support Consultant. Kilness shared that being offered an advisory role is uncommon for many teenagers. “They appreciate that their voice matters and that adults use their feedback to improve the Give Next program,” said Kilness. “Youth empowerment is a key component of Give Next and including students in decision making about how the program operates is vital.”

YAC Impact

YAC feedback has been instrumental in major curriculum updates, including student activities, teacher materials, and the Give Next grant application. Nonprofits apply for a Give Next grant through an application process every year. It’s important for the grant application to give students the information they need to move forward with the decision-making process. Based on YAC feedback, the application was restructured for readability, and questions were updated to more accurately capture what youth care about when making grant decisions.

In addition to providing guidance about the Give Next program activities, YAC members also benefit from connecting with their peers from different schools and grades. These connections to each other foster a stronger sense of belonging in YAC and the broader Northern Colorado community.

“My favorite part of being on the Youth Advisory Committee is helping my community,” said Jackson, a senior participating in YAC. “Within our meetings my words are valued and heard. My suggestions come to fruition. There are changes happening that I can see for myself and experience. Me and my peers are helping our community, despite our young ages.”

Learn more

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