Honors Seminar Focuses Philanthropy on Mentoring Projects
By Katharine Webster
‘Tis the season for giving: the end of the fall semester, when students in an Honors College
seminar on philanthropy divide up $10,000 among local nonprofits that have applied to them for grants.
This year’s winners were three Lowell charities with programs that help children through mentoring, the focus chosen by the class.
“It builds leadership for the counselors and youth and keeps them active and away from gangs,” said Sakieth Long, director of youth programs for Cambodian Mutual Assistance. The group needs to raise $42,000 in cash to run the camp, which it is taking over from another organization, he said.
Alex Infantino, a sophomore computer science major from Fitchburg, who advocated for Cambodian Mutual Assistance after doing a site evaluation, says he was impressed with the group’s plans to open a youth center in their new building, as well as take over the summer camp. Previously, the organization had focused on services for adult immigrants.
“They’re trying to revamp to focus on youth,” Infantino said. “They plan to reach 60 to 80 kids, but they also train junior counselors age 16 to 25 to be mentors for the kids. We’re hoping the kids will look up to the junior counselors.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell
won $4,000 for its Diplomas to Degrees program, which helps high school students figure out how to prepare for college. And the class also awarded $2,500 to Project LEARN for the Compass Program at Lowell High School
, which teams up with community organizations to offer extracurricular learning opportunities, from a photography club to experiences in nature.
The honors seminar, “Experiencing Philanthropy,” was offered last year for the first time and is taught by Nancy Lippe, a nonprofit professional. Students come up with their own ideas for nonprofits, perform community service together, decide on a focus for soliciting grant proposals, reach out to local nonprofits and evaluate the proposals. The money they award is provided by the Learning by Giving foundation, a national organization. Honors College Dean Jim Canning
said he hopes to establish an endowment for the course.
Senior Sean Hays said the most important thing he learned was that being a philanthropist isn’t for some distant future when he’s old and has lots of money.
“We’re all philanthropists and can start making a positive impact today,” Hays said at a campus event to award the nonprofits their grants. “I can do my own research; I can find organizations that align with my views, my values; I can start my own nonprofit to address real needs around me; I can volunteer and support places making a real impact on real people’s lives this day, this week, this month.”