In May, students at Rocky Mountain High School gathered among an audience of peers, teachers, and community members to award more than $8,000 to local nonprofits working to eliminate hunger and address food insecurity.
This was one of 26 similar events throughout middle and high schools in Estes Park, Poudre, and Thompson school districts. Students awarded a total of $151,725 to 47 nonprofits. The celebrations marked the culmination of a year of students’ hard work. A year spent designing and managing their own grantmaking programs through northern Colorado’s Give Next program.
Give Next is a school-based program. It uses grantmaking as a tool to connect youth to each other and their community; to build understanding of social issues; and to shift power to youth. Local businesses, foundations, and individual donors provide each school-based group with $5,000 to award to local nonprofits. In addition, students organize fundraisers to increase their grantmaking capacity. In celebration of Give Next’s 10th anniversary, Alpine Bank sponsored a $10,000 student fundraising match. Students surpassed the challenge, raising $11,725 with their own fundraising efforts.
Rocky Mountain High School students raised $3,100. The additional funds allowed them to fulfill grant requests from more nonprofits, including Vindeket Foods, a food rescue that partners with grocery stores, restaurants, and farms to reduce food waste and address food insecurity. Vindeket received a total of $11,250 from four Give Next schools. They will use the funds to purchase a walk-in freezer to help store more popular items like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy.
“It is overwhelming,” said Nathan Shaw, founder and executive director of Vindeket. “We are honored so many classrooms elected to award funds to us. In the past, we’ve had to turn food away due to limited storage capacity. The new freezer will allow us to stock more high-demand items for our clients on a more consistent basis.” This was Vindeket’s first year participating in Give Next.
Since 2012, Give Next students have awarded over three quarters of a million dollars to more than 100 nonprofits in the community. More than $100,000 of that has come directly from student-led fundraising efforts.