Philanthropy 101: La Jolla Country Day School embraces new program for future philanthropists

By Ashley Mackin

Five students from the La Jolla Country Day School are working through the Philanthropy 101 program administered by the La Jolla Community Foundation as an affiliate of the San Diego Community Foundation to help the local homeless population.

Juniors Corinne Wong and Demi Surnamer, and seniors Rebecca Shanks, Annalisa Race and Sheridan Rice said their emphasis would be on youth homelessness.

Several La Jolla schools were offered the Philanthropy 101 program, but only La Jolla Country Day accepted the invitation to participate.

“Through the leadership of a staff member from the Foundation and an assigned teacher or leader, the students in Philanthropy 101 actually operate much like a mini foundation,” said Charlene Pryor, director of the La Jolla Community Foundation. “They learn the A to Z of philanthropy — everything from determining a need by exploring community issues — all the way through to distributing grant money out to local non-profits.”

Rice said a big reason for participating from a student’s viewpoint is that this program is different from a typical school project. “There is a business component to it ... plus we had so much leeway with what we wanted to do and so many opportunities that the San Diego Foundation is providing us.”

Race added, “I think for all of us, we just want to get our community and school more involved with philanthropy as a whole and get people to be more passionate about service and helping — and making people more aware of what’s happening in our community.”

Wong said, “I think it’s important to participate in a program like Philanthropy 101 because there’s not a lot of the young generation who know about (philanthropic) ideas and we need to make sure young people do that.”

The students in the program start by surveying other students on topics they consider important. La Jolla Country Day participants chose homelessness as the issue they will pursue, and were given $5,000 by the La Jolla Community Foundation under the umbrella of the San Diego Foundation to begin their efforts. The San Diego Foundation also supplied the students with an advisor, Lindsay Cadell, who is the previous director of the Philanthropy 101 program.

Now that they’ve chosen their topic, the students are reviewing how to best tackle local homelessness by distributing cash — the initial $5,000 and any additional funds they independently raise.

The students are researching local organizations they want to sup- port. From there, they will contact these organizations for grant let- ters. It will be up to the students to determine which organizations get funding and how much. Students are also looking to host fund-raisers to add to the amount of cash they can distribute.

One fundraiser will be the annual La Jolla Palooza, held in May. This year’s Philanthropy 101 students will use the event for outreach and fund-raising for next year’s group. Each participant said she wants to continue the program, both for herself and for future Country Day students.

Rice, who will be attending college in Atlanta next year, said, “I think community service is a lifelong thing. There are endless ways to keep up service and most of us will be going to different parts of the country, so working with different organizations (and) finding new ones there will definitely be interesting.”

Shanks also said she plans to bring her service efforts to college because she wants to study medicine and travel abroad helping others.

Added Rice, “Part of our mission statement is to inspire other students, so hopefully after this year, if we do everything well and it goes smoothly, we will have inspired others and Corinne and Demi can lead the way.” Surnamer said she looks forward to taking over next year and carrying on the Philanthropy 101 program.

“Hopefully (we’ll) fund a new issue and get the school involved again and do more surveys and see what worked this year and what we can change for next year to make it better.”

LJCDS Community Service Coordinator Susan Nordenger said the Philanthropy 101 program is a good fit for Country Day students.

“The kids here really care about their community and the world around them, and they’re taking (to heart) what they’re learning in classes. What we like doing here is empowering kids and letting them take on a project and take ownership of it.”