Youth and Philanthropy Initiative

National youth grant-giving program marks $10 million milestone at Calgary school

300,000 Canadian students have participated in grant-making for their communities

March 6, 2020 – Calgary, AB – Months of work by Grade 9 students at MidSun School culminated on Friday morning with a $5,000 donation to the Autism Aspergers Friendship Society of Calgary (AAFS). This donation marked a major milestone for a national youth-directed grant-giving program.

Since 2002, Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Canada has given $10 million to thousands of charities across Canada that have been selected by over 300,000 Grade 9 and 10 students.

At a time when Calgarians are discussing the role young people play in our society, and how to make our city more attractive to the next generation, YPI helps youth foster better connections with their community, build a sense of belonging, and be empowered to choose where grant dollars can be best put to use in their own communities.

“YPI Canada is an answer to a challenge we face in philanthropy. How do we tackle complex social challenges today, while creating the conditions for systemic social change?” said Julie Toskan, MSM, OMC, founder and board chair of YPI Canada.

“I’m really proud of the hundreds of thousands of young people that have taken our program, and the thousands of charities that have been helped by what we do. But there’s room for so much more.”

More than 5,000 students from Calgary have taken part in the national program since 2002, including the 280 MidSun students who participated in a nail-biting final at a school assembly on Friday morning.

Winning grade 9 students with Julie Toskan

As part of their Humanities class, the Calgary students were divided into teams starting in January. The 14 and 15-year-olds studied social issues including accessibility and gender-based violence, identified local charities that work on those issues, interviewed and visited charities and created a funding proposal on behalf of their charity. The students developed a 10-minute presentation to introduce their chosen cause and charity to their classmates and competed for a chance to win their organization a $5,000 grant. The top presentation was determined by a judging panel made up of grade 9 students, Jenny Cull of Helpseeker, and Karen Youngberg of the Alberta Jubilee Society and earned a $5,000 grant for AAFS.

The judges tally their scores, while they make their decision.

“As a teacher, I never feel more fulfilled and rewarded than when I’m working with kids participating in YPI. From the first phone call, where students actually talk to someone at their charity, they’re so excited. The kids’ faces light up and it suddenly becomes real for them,” said Anna Trip, a Grade 9 Humanities teacher at MidSun School and the YPI lead teacher.

“The YPI program allows students to build connections with a local charity they will remember for life.”

Since the national program’s inception, $200,000 of the $10 Million has been granted to 40 charities in Calgary, with over 5,000 local students having participated in the process. YPI receives funding from national supporters like TD Bank, and has expanded programming in recent years to more Calgary schools, with support from local grant-makers including the Calgary Foundation and Werklund Foundation.

“YPI is helping to build the next generation of philanthropists,” says Jason Bates, vice-president of Grants & Community Initiatives at the Calgary Foundation.

“I’ve watched the YPI presentations in Calgary and seen youth stand on stage, in front of their peers, very emphatic in stating ‘This is what our community needs.’ As adults, we can learn from that because we’re conditioned to give that up as we grow.”

The $10 million milestone was celebrated Friday at MidSun School by teachers, YPI staff, politicians, charitable employees, and ultimately students. YPI is about empowering teenagers to develop an authentic sense of connection to social issues, local charities, and their community at a pivotal stage in their adolescence.

Student team representing AAFS delivers their presentation.

“There’s kind of a stigma that teenagers don’t know anything, they don’t care at all about anything,” says 15-year-old Bridget Chan, a student who participated in the YPI program at MidSun last school year.

“A lot of us, we actually know quite a lot about society. YPI is a good opportunity to let younger people speak their mind and talk about issues they care about.

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