Harvest Youth Board to present at national conference

Harvest Youth Board to present at national conference
Former and current members of the Harvest Youth Board will make a presentation in Washington, D.C. at this year’s annual Grantmakers for Education convention in October.

September 18, 2017

The Harvest Foundation’s Youth Board has been invited to make a presentation about its formation, mission and accomplishments at the national annual convention of the Grantmakers for Education organization.

Seven present and past members of the Youth Board will make the presentation Oct. 16 in Washington, D.C.

They will talk about how the Youth Board was created two years ago, how it gets local youth involved, how other organizations can do the same and leadership opportunities in the future, according to Karli Foster, chairperson of the Youth Board.

The goal is to “share their successes with others,” said DeWitt House, senior program officer for The Harvest Foundation who also advises the Youth Board.

The presentation will include a PowerPoint feature along with comments from seven young people: Foster; Kendall Cope, vice chairperson of the Youth Board; Paulina Vazquez and Cameron Brummitt, inaugural Youth Board chairman and vice chairman, respectively; inaugural board members Phillip Williams and Kristel Hairston; and Max Pinkston, immediate past chairman.

Also attending the conference to assist the seven will be current board members Devin Page, Sophia Esdaile, Sean Arroyo and Julian Vaughn.

The youth will have a script of talking points rather than actual dialogue so the presentation will be more of a conversation with the audience than speakers reading from prepared comments, Foster said.

“We’ll probably be the only kids in the room. We want to impress people, not read off a script. We want to blow their minds,” Foster said. The point, she added, is to encourage organizations to listen to the youth of their communities.

To do that locally, The Harvest Foundation created the youth board in 2015. The 13-member board is entirely student-run and focuses on youth-related issues in the area. It can award grants, create initiatives or develop projects related to youth issues. Board members also advise the full Harvest Board of Directors on youth and community issues.

India Brown, grants administrator at The Harvest Foundation, said the youth board is unique in that members run their own meetings and are empowered to make decisions. Without that empowerment, House said, the board becomes “just another committee.” 

The youth board is supported by The Harvest Foundation and the Kiwanis Club. “We are blessed that The Harvest Foundation invests in this. … The fact that the (Harvest) board entrusted them with resources to hopefully make an impact on youth in this community is important,” House said.

But, Foster said, financial resources such as those Harvest provides are not essential for an organization seeking to set up a youth board. Volunteering can have a large impact as well, she said, as the board learned when members volunteered at the local Richard’s Dinner at Christmas two years ago.

That dinner helped prepare the youth board members to host a Thanksgiving eve dinner last year in which 177 volunteers served 1,704 free meals to area residents. The board also has awarded several grants, including one to establish the QuickStart tennis program in area schools and one to assist the Community Fellowship with its Back2School event, among other things.

This year, the board hopes to have a bigger impact and will focus on awarding additional grants after the Thanksgiving eve dinner is behind it, Foster and House said.

As a result of those activities and the work they involved, the youth are well-prepared to speak at the conference, Brown and Foster said.

But talking about that will be no small feat considering that there probably will be several thousand people in the audience. House based that estimated on the two previous Grantmakers for Education conferences he has attended.

“We’ve talked a bit about what to expect,” House said. “They know what they’re talking about.”

Foster admitted that she is excited but nervous about speaking before such a large group. She and the others have been working for weeks on the PowerPoint and script, and they plan numerous practice sessions before the October conference.

“I know we’ll do fine. It’s just a matter of doing it,” she said.

Foster and House said as far as they know, the Harvest Youth Board will be the only presentation by young people at the conference. Harvest is a member of the Grantmakers for Education.

Foster said she will consider the presentation a success if other groups create their own youth boards to listen to the young people in their communities.

Grantmakers for Education is based in Portland, Ore. According to its website, it is “the nation’s largest and most diverse network of education grant makers dedicated to improving educational outcomes and increasing opportunities for all learners.” Its members include nearly 300 organizations and 1,400 individuals.



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