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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 1, 2023
HomeNewsArchives@School: Club Teaches Students Philanthropy

@School: Club Teaches Students Philanthropy

Junior Philanthropists, from left, Billy Biscoe, Harry de Haas, Pooja Chainani, Julianna de Haas, Nichlas Midler and Amisha Mirchandani at a recent meeting.What do you get when you divide $22,000 by five or six worthy causes?

That’s the “good” problem facing 35 elementary, junior high and high school students before the end of the school year.

Members of the Junior Philanthropists have been meeting the past couple of weeks to share their thoughts and their research about various organizations and programs under consideration by the group to share in the money it has raised this school year.

The club originated at Antilles School, starting about two years ago and getting into full swing in the 2011-2012 school year. It now includes members from All Saints Cathedral School and Lockhart Elementary, and is open to other schools as well. Members must be fifth graders or older.

The idea for the group originated with Antilles eighth grader Nicholas Midler, who said he was inspired back in fifth grade when a man who runs an orphanage in Nepal made a presentation at the school. Midler became pen pals with a boy at the orphanage and developed both a friendship and an awareness of the economic needs of the world’s struggling poor.

With help from adults, including his mother, Monica Midler, and faculty advisor Charlotte Wardell, Midler and a small group of students developed the concept of the Junior Philanthropists.

Incorporated under the auspices of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, the group functions as a non-profit organization.

“You have to pay your age in dollars” as a membership fee, Midler said. Members are also expected to work at group events and share their special talents.

The idea is not only to encourage students to donate time and money to charitable causes. It’s also to teach them how non-profits work, how to assess needs, how to create strategies to address problems, how to make decisions, how to raise funds and how to work as a team.

“They need to understand. It’s not just about writing a check,” Wardell said. It’s determining how best to help, and who to help.

Not to say that it’s all serious work. At a recent session with six members of the group, it was apparent that one thing the members don’t need to learn is how to have fun.

The group conducts relatively small fundraising activities throughout the school year, but the main event this year was its second annual Youth 4 Youth Tennis Tournament. Open to players aged 7 to 18, the tournament ran March 1-3. Club members handled virtually every aspect of the event, from designing T-shirt logos and posters and web content to promote the event, to soliciting corporate sponsors, to selling refreshments at the games.

Seventh grader Billy Biscoe got high marks from his fellow philanthropists for the presentations he made at Scotiabank and Fintrac, both of which became sponsors. He said his mom helped him put the presentation together and a club group actually created the PowerPoint he used. But he was the guy facing the audience.

Biscoe said he became a member of the Junior Philanthropists because “I like helping people in need and my mom also wanted me to join.”

Fifth grader Amisha Mirchandani almost had to join; her older sister is in charge of recruitment. She pitched in at the tournament, selling food and drinks and said she had a good time.

Besides raising money, the tournament attracted some new members.

“A lot of players got interested in it (the group) and signed up right then,” said Pooja Chainani, an eighth-grade student.

Last year the group raised $7,000. Midler said that money went to scholarships for the summer youth program at Pistarckle Theater, to My Brothers Workshop training and employment program, to the St. Thomas Swimming Association and to the orphanage in Nepal.

This year’s fundraising got a boost from a $10,000 matching grant that came through a CFVI from St. Thomas entrepreneur Henry Wheatley.

Some of its hardest work takes place after the fundraising, as the students research, meet and discuss how to donate their funds.

While some of the money came from sponsors, a lot of it came through the hard work of club members who not only organized, promoted and managed the tournament but manned the booths and picked up the trash afterward.

“When you see where the money’s coming from,” Midler said. “you really want to know it goes to the right place.”

Wardell said the students are close to making that decision, and should have an announcement in the next week or so.

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