Scholars combine education with giving back

Philanthropy is a mindset and action that can be given in a variety of ways no matter the time of the year.

This fall term, more than two dozen high school students are learned those skills through the hands-on Scholars in Service program sponsored by Covenant House, a nonprofit on Atlanta’s westside that provides support and training to homeless youth. The project was launched last spring with 16 students from around the metro area’s public and private schools, and this fall’s cohort is twice that size.

Kellie Glenn, Covenant’s development director, worked with high schoolers to design a program for teens that combines philanthropy with service.

“It gives young students a chance to give back to the community and to understand how their work impacts nonprofits, saves funding and provides opportunities to get to know different people and build relationships,” said Glenn. “It’s also a way for young students to learn about homelessness and how it starts around their age.”

Students fill out applications and commit to raising at least $1,000 – the cost of supporting a resident for a month at Covenant House that last year served almost 1,500 children. Once accepted, the students attend Homelessness 101, a session that covers various aspects of the issue and includes personal stories from the residents.

“We also teach them about philanthropy, how to fundraise through corporate and individual giving,” said Glenn. “Each student is paired with a mentor from the community who works with them on ideas, and each one has a fundraising page that explains how the money goes right back into our program.”

The scholar who raises the most money in a term receives a $2,500 scholarship and a matching one for a Covenant resident.

Powder Springs resident Maggie Wolfe is a leading contender for the honor, having raised $10,000 since October. The 17-year-old from Hillgrove High has done it through networking in person and on social media, securing donations from companies and hosting a Pampered Chef party.

She’s also wrapped presents for contributions at a local bookstore and organized a fundraising night at Otter’s Chicken in West Cobb for Jan. 7, when 15 percent of the proceeds will go to Covenant House.

“I heard about the program through my school, and it sounded like something I’d like to do,” said Wolfe, who last year led a clothing and food drive at Hillgrove. “I really enjoyed doing that and had some experience with it. We’ve had education nights to learn about youth homelessness that raised my awareness. I probably wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been in this program.”

The program does more than increase the scholars’ awareness, said Glenn.

“Yes, their level of knowledge is improved,” she said. “But we also have had parents tell us that they have a different level of empathy now. It shows that getting younger people involved in giving back is very important.”

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