Over the past five years I've had the pleasure of talking to many adults that mentor youth through their programs. Audiences come from a variety of youth-serving organizations including school and afterschool programs, foundations supporting youth leadership, and even children's choirs and museums! Most of these adults have something in common; they learned philanthropic behaviors (giving and serving) by seeing the actions of an adult in their own lives. Many times that person is a parent or grandparent, a teacher that helped them develop a talent, or a youth pastor that provided constructive service opportunities.
This illustration (A Path to Growing Lifelong Philanthropists) highlights some of the entry points when philanthropic concepts and opportunities can be introduced within a young person's life. They are based on child development concepts, the psychological and emotional changes that occur as a young person progresses from dependency to increasing independence.
Let's take a moment to think about who introduced philanthropic behaviors in your life. Who inspired you to GIVE your time and help others? When did you begin to SERVE those around you? Why are you still ENGAGED in helping youth succeed? Who lit the SPARK in your life and what did they teach you? Mentors open the world up to young people, exposing them ideas and nurturing the unique talents they possess. It's also important for us to help youth explore their values and concerns. One of my favorite activities is writing a "Personal Mission Statement", a summary of the aims and values of an individual. If you are working with younger youth, ask them to think of two items they'd "put in their boat" or rescue if their home was about to be destroyed by flood waters.
To continue this journey of Nurturing Lifelong Philanthropists, here are some ways to empower lifelong serving habits in others and to fuel impactful programming and experiences for young people.
Start Early and Stay Sticky with examples of caring and sharing.
Develop philanthropic behaviors and attitudes through giving of time, talent, and treasure.
Expand opportunities for youth service, leadership, and engagement. Conduct a community needs assessment with the youth in your programs.
For more ideas and activities check out the Youth as Philanthropist resource for hands-on activities that help youth explore the time, talent, and treasure they have to share with others. Visit these Helpful Links to learn about programs and resources that will help you integrate concepts of giving and serving (youth philanthropy) into your programs through service-learning and philanthropic education.
Most importantly, remember the spark your mentors lit inside of you and pass that along to the youth in your lives.
For first breakfast, two eggs, a piece of toast with honey, and two cups of coffee. Second breakfast (a meeting) two oat bites (Cherry Almond and Pistachio), a fancy Americano drink that had apple juice and lemon in it, and herbal mint tea!
We have the power to light a fire in every child with whom we work. It only takes one person to change a child's life. Think back on your educational influences and you will likely find someone who lit a fire in you that still burns today. Across the country I've asked leaders, "What childhood science experiences do you remember?" People share about baking soda volcanoes, science fairs, field trips, and dissections that lit a spark in them. I never hear about textbooks.
During a recent out-of-school time staff training in Richmond, California, I asked, "What are the important characteristics of science during out-of-school time?" The usual responses—hands-on, engaging, and fun—were offered up. There was an uncomfortable wait time until a young man raised his hand and said, "Enthusiasm. It is important that the leader is excited when sharing the lesson." This sparked an important conversation about the power we have to influence children—either positively and negatively—and their attitudes towards learning. I recall my sixth-grade teacher starting the year by saying, "I spent my whole summer learning about new math," in the most negative and exhausted voice. It wasn't until the teaching credential program that I discovered a love for and success with math. There were many factors besides that teacher, but I remember her remarks like it was yesterday.
When you hear people talk about creating a brighter future, think of the spark that started your career. Think about the contribution you can make by sharing that spark with every child you meet. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are genuinely excited about the work you are doing and the activities you are leading, your students will want to be a part of it. We all have an enormous role to play in the future of the world. Lend your voice, your passion, your time. 25 years from now, in a gathering of passionate educational leaders, someone will share a story of a person who inspired them and sparked a fire that continues to burn brightly. Be that spark of inspiration. Choose to contribute.
For breakfast this morning, I had Malto Meal for breakfast with brown sugar and milk. Yummy!