Youth Advisory Council teaches students how to give back to their community

As three grant-seekers stroll purposefully to the front of a wood-finished conference room and turn to greet their audience, their smiles are received by faces much younger than one might expect. But age has no bearing on the gravity of this pitch, and they proceed.
 

  Grace Wilcox (left) takes notes as Dreams on Horseback representatives present their proposal for grant funding.

Grace Wilcox (left) takes notes as Dreams on Horseback representatives present their proposal for grant funding.

“The premise of all Dreams on Horseback programs is to provide hope and healing to its participants through horse assisted learning programs,” Darlene Bell, director of Dreams on Horseback’s Military Connection program explained, preceeding their grant proposal on August 21, 2018.

Bell represents one of over a dozen organizations this year that has brought grant proposals before the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for funding. The YAC is a philanthropic organization that educates youth on the processes surrounding youth health and wellness related philanthropy and grantmaking. It is comprised entirely of youth, ages 13 to 18, and overseen by the Columbus Medical Association Foundation (CMAF).

In order to receive funding, Bell’s program must meet the important criteria of targeting “youth and youth health priorities,” among other requirements. Whether her plan meets these criteria is for the council to decide. A lively discussion follows the grantees’ departure, as the prudent council members determine whether they should fund this newly-developed program.

  YAC members discuss and assess the viability of funding Dreams On Horseback’s Military Connection program

YAC members discuss and assess the viability of funding Dreams On Horseback’s Military Connection program

“Dreams on Horseback was requesting funding for a program that would provide equine counseling to veterans and their children,” Grace Wilcox, YAC Senior Representative, said. “The program was new and would be running for the next four months, helping a total of 16 participants – 8 of them being children – during that time period.”

Wilcox, a high school senior, serves as liaison between YAC and the CMAF. Prior to her involvement with YAC, Wilcox says she had little knowledge of philanthropy. Today she possesses the rare first-hand knowledge of how foundations operate.

“I have learned how to voice my opinion in a thoughtful and diplomatic way,” Wilcox explained. “I have also learned a lot about parliamentary procedure, especially through my time spent as the liaison to the CMAF board.”

  A group of YAC members review their assessments, following Dreams on Horseback’s presentation

A group of YAC members review their assessments, following Dreams on Horseback’s presentation

This organization’s presentation is one of many in which the YAC has had to decide whether the requested funds would effectively serve the youth of their community.

“The YAC all agreed that the program sounded promising, considering Dreams on Horseback’s strong reputation and success stories of similar programs,” Grace Wilcox, YAC Senior Representative, said.

“We also were conscious of our budget. We had less than $5000 for the rest of the year and wanted to be able to give out at least two more grants in the next two months,” Wilcox said.

Cognizant of their dwindling annual funds, the council ultimately decided to approve just partial funding for the new program.
 

The council determined that the amount of $758 would cover horse and instructor costs for a period of 1 to 2 months. After that initial period, the council would decide whether to grant additional funding for the program.
 

  Brittany Villanueva Martinez, YAC Program Coordinator for the Columbus Medical Association Foundation

Brittany Villanueva Martinez, YAC Program Coordinator for the Columbus Medical Association Foundation

"Students are phenomenal at analyzing the incoming budget requests and considering the current annual spending budget of $25,000,” Brittany Villanueva Martinez, YAC Program Coordinator, said.

“They work to translate which budget items are appropriate or necessary and follow the CMAF YAC grantmaking guidelines.”

The YAC have granted over $20,000 to youth-focused projects this year. Organizations such as A Kid Again, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Columbus City Schools have all benefited from their funding.

“Many programs to improve the health and wellness of youth are created by organizations without the needed input of the very individuals these programs are designed to help. That is what makes the YAC so special.”

In total, the organization has granted over $240,000 in grants since its founding in 2001.

“I used to think that philanthropy was only possible for the very rich or the government, but I now know that it is far more complex, and also more accessible, than that,” Wilcox said.

The YAC will continue to grant funding in 2019, and students like Grace will continue to serve the youth in their community through grantmaking. For more information about the Youth Advisory Council, click here.