Park Academy sixth-grader Dylan Harvey remembers how The Dougy Center helped her after her father died when she was just 7 years old. The Portland-based national nonprofit organization offers grieving children and families a place to express their feelings.
"I didn't know how to deal with those emotions," Dylan says.
That experience helped Park Academy leadership class students decide which organizations to support recently, when they participated in The Oregon Community Foundation's Community 101 program. Through C101, selected schools receive a $5,000 allocation that they can then award as a grant in the areas of arts and culture, education, the environment and healthy families.
"The Community 101 project provided Park Academy Students an incredible opportunity to take control over their own learning and discover a whole new way to look at and participate in charitable giving," Park Academy Head of School Craig Lowery said.
Students move through a process of using criteria and group collaboration to choose a charity. Although Dylan is a little young for the leadership class, the group invited her to share her opinion. They ended up choosing The Dougy Center and The Blosser Center for Dyslexia Resources.
The local organizations received their grant on May 25 during an assembly at the school, which is a private nonprofit for students with dyslexia and other language-learning challenges.
Lowery said his students "embraced their role with sincerity and maturity, creating a mission and using that mission to guide their research and choices."
"Along the way the class had rich discussions about many topics including what makes a successful nonprofit organization," he said, "how to make a direct impact on the lives of students, and impact and responsibility of choosing to fund one organization and not another."
Park Academy junior Jack Zaninovich chose The Dougy Center and enjoyed the effort of students deciding "where to make a difference." He also brought Dylan some joy.
"I feel like we're giving the money to a really good cause, so that made me happy," Dylan said.
Two good causes, in fact. The Blosser Center is a Portland nonprofit that offers an approach to teaching called Orton-Gillingham, an alternative, research-based reading, writing and spelling curriculum specifically designed for students with dyslexia. Students said that they'd had friends use The Blosser Center's services.
"It felt good to help," said Park Academy sophomore Tyler Anderson.
Mallory Tyler, director of development and communications for The Dougy Center, told The Review before the assembly that she thinks it's great how the school has gotten children involved in philanthropy so young, especially when they're supporting other young people.
"I think it's really important and can be really rewarding for kids," Tyler said. "It's cool to see kids helping kids."
Lynn Allmeyer, The Blosser Center's executive director, also was on hand to accept the grant from the Park Academy kids. Allmeyer says he was impressed with the discussion behind the grant selections.
"It's very important for the kids to debate where they want to give the money," he noted. He also said he believes these kinds of activities build empathy and awareness about the needs of others.
"These are the types of lessons that last a lifetime and help students understand and shape their views of themselves and the world," Lowery said. "I'm very proud of these students."
Anderson said he felt like he worked on developing career skills like holding business discussions, and freshman Noah Childs said the experience was something a person doesn't do every day. Childs said he liked getting to decide where the funds go and seeing those funds go to an organization that will "help our community in a positive way."
Senior Ace Tiedemann also found the experience of choosing who to help empowering, especially as a young person with little decision-making power.
"I feel like a lot of the times … we don't get to have a lot of say in what we choose, so it was great to have a class where we have a say," she said.