On a clear spring Saturday in downtown Cleveland an intergenerational group gathered for Foundation Center Midwest’s Youth Philanthropy Summit. The Summit wrapped up its year-long 40th anniversary celebration with a nod to the future – engaging the next generation of philanthropists, volunteers, and social sector leaders. Settled in the Learning Commons of the Louis Stokes branch of the Cleveland Public Library, the next generation of dreamers and doers kicked off the day with an interactive icebreaker designed to understand the process of creativity and collaboration.
Attendees ranged from teens to young professionals starting out their careers. The Summit offered learning opportunities that attendees could immediately apply to their own projects. Indigo Bishop from Ioby, provided a practical look at crowdfunding and grassroots fundraising. Tim Marshall from Baldwin Wallace University presented tips and principles of social media to advance social causes. Foundation Center staff member, Brian Schultz, presented on philanthropy basics and Foundation Center services available like Foundation Directory Online. Harry, a business major at Cuyahoga Community College came to the Summit after hearing what he called an “inspiring talk” by Foundation Center Director, Teleangé Thomas, and wanted to learn more, bringing along a friend who is a nursing student.
Generously supported by the Doll Family Foundation and the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation, the Youth Philanthropy Summit was a refreshing and interactive convening of mission driven individuals committed to amplifying youth voices and harnessing their talent for doing good better. Symone McClain, Vice President of the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation was on hand to experience the event, “Our foundation has supported youth philanthropy for many years and this was an opportunity for us to partner with Foundation Center to provide an opportunity for next generation doers and innovators to experience philanthropy at their level.”
Jeremy Perry, a sophomore from Cleveland Heights, attended the event because he wanted to get ideas on careers and connect with people who are working with the social sector. Andrew Gutierrez, a young professional, remarked that the Summit was a “great opportunity to learn from individuals in the philanthropy field.”
“The field of philanthropy is so rich and so broad,” observed a student named Logan who is interested in environmental and social justice issues. He took his seat just as the keynote, Deonshanic Petaway, a high school student from Lima, Ohio told her story. Deonshanic founded CeaseFire Lima, an anti-violence organization designed to facilitate conversations between youth and police, and increase awareness of violence occurring in her community. In addition to starting a movement in her hometown, she also serves as Deputy Mayor of the Lima Junior City Council, which she founded with the help of her councilman.
Deonshanic, a 10th grader who loves science, was sick of mourning the deaths of loved ones and people her age. She saw that the larger movements to address gun violence and police brutality were not reaching her small city. She learned quickly that movement building is a herculean task. Getting frustrated young people to get involved can be difficult and personal. When asked about how she persuades her peers to take part in CeaseFire, she explains, “I try to talk to them one-on-one and understand where they’re coming from. I ask them, ‘Why are you so angry?’”
She observes that young girls especially face tough challenges. High rates of teen pregnancy and bullying compound the issues addressed by CeaseFire. Deonshanic uses her struggles faced as a young girl to drive her, “I can’t be mad at the world because if I am mad at the world, I can’t get nowhere.” While graduation is still a couple years away, her current future plans are to own her own business.
Her humility and grace inspired every Summit attendee. When she encounters people who say they cannot be helped, her perseverance shines through with profound simplicity, “I tell them we can try”.
Vision and Voices is a blog series dedicated to exploring important social sector topics through the eyes of its doers and dreamers in honor of Foundation Center Midwest’s 40th anniversary. For more information visit http://foundationcenter.org/cleveland40