Student grantmakers award funds

On a recent afternoon, BHS math teacher Jason Willcoxon stood before a group of students, just as he does every day. This time was different, though. “Oh, I’m nervous, holy smokes!” he said. Willcoxon wasn’t teaching; he was making a request. The students were part of BEF’s Youth Philanthropy Program (YPP), tasked with disbursing up to $5,000 for teacher- and student-initiated grants. Willcoxon was seeking $500 to purchase 150 geometers to help his geometry students draw shapes.

“You’ve heard of No Child Left Behind,” he joked. “We’re going for No Shape Left Undrawn.”

The geometers are inexpensive, he explained, and most students pay for them. But for a few, the extra money is hard to find; embarrassed, they sometimes go without the device.

The proposal was straightforward, but the students had questions. “Is it your plan to give them to the students to keep, and buy new ones every year?” asked a student.

“Yes,” he said. “The vision is that it is consumable and that it would be an ongoing grant.” There was a long silence.

“Would it be a better use to collect them back?” Willcoxon asked, scanning the students’ faces. “Keep down the cost?”

Heads nodded around the table.

“We can do that,” he said.

***

Students from the Environmental Club presented their proposal.

Students from the Environmental Club presented their proposal to the YPP group.

Now in its fourth year, YPP offers juniors and seniors who are selected for the program the opportunity to experience the grantmaking process from the funders’ side of the table. Supported in part by the income from a BEF endowment established in 2012 to honor retired foundation director Charlene Morgan, the YPP seeks not only to train the next generation of philanthropists, but also to give students a hands-on leadership experience. Since the program’s inception in 2012, Bexley High School junior and senior grant makers have awarded over $10,000 to support high school teacher and student-initiated projects.

In preparation for the grants process, the 20 participants this year attended four “learning lunches” on topics ranging from how public schools are funded to a panel discussion with representatives of three local foundations. They also took responsibility for soliciting grant applications and publicizing the opportunity.

After the applicants made their presentations last week, the students discussed the projects and voted on funding. They decided to increase the amount of funds for geometers so that Mr. Willcoxon could purchase enough to have replacements if some were broken or lost—but would not return for funding the following year.

The students approved funding for four additional initiatives:

  • $600 for the geometers.
  • $576 for a powerful trinocular microscope that can be connected to a camera. The microscope, requested by art teacher Helma Groot, will be shared between the art and science departments and will be used both to create art using cellular images and to aid in classroom instruction by producing more detailed and high resolution images on the SMART Boards in science classes.
  • $1,080 for a convertible laptop/tablet for math teacher Craig McMillen, who will use it to increase student and teacher interaction by displaying work on the classroom SMART Board from anywhere in the room.
  • $500 for games and controllers for the high school gaming club, to accommodate rapid growth in membership. Both male and female club members find gaming to be a much needed outlet for stress reduction and socializing.
  • $1,063 to cover costs of professional framing for two large posters, requested by the environmental club. The posters, donated by the Bexley Tree and Arboretum Commission, will be displayed in the science wing and are intended to generate greater awareness among students of Bexley as “a city within an arboretum.”

Applications for the spring round of funding from BEF’s regular (adult-led) grant program will be due March 11 in the BEF office.