United Way of Central Minnesota’s Youth as Resources (YAR) volunteers are an excellent example of the positive impact youth and adult partnerships can have in a community. The current YAR board has ten high school youth and three adults that meet monthly to review grant proposals written by youth. YAR offers grants up to $1,000 for youth aged 5-21 who want to make a difference. The board members have the important task of allocating $15,000 annually to youth-led service projects.
The Youth as Resources board members carefully read the proposals reviewing each with a checklist of criteria to ensure the projects are youth-led, provide an opportunity for learning, and meet a community need. They discuss the proposals in a respectful manner, taking each person’s perspective into account. This past year, they funded 27 unique projects impacting residents of central Minnesota.
The board members also promote the program in their schools and communities. They talk with fellow students about the grant funding that is available. They write articles for their local newspapers sharing the story of YAR. They also work to raise funds for the program through staffing events and writing appeal letters to local service clubs. They are the leaders of YAR and determine the future direction of the program. They empower their peers to become active in community service. This program would not be viable without their enthusiasm and energy.
Here are some examples of the amazing projects they have funded during the last six years of the program’s existence:
Crafts for Meals on Wheels A group of middle school students regularly volunteer at the ROCORI Senior Center. They decided to make special monthly gifts to include with the meals delivered through the local Meals on Wheels program to bring joy to recipients.
Cheese Wagon Players High school students performed plays educating 713 elementary students about bullying and harassment, and how it can be addressed. The youth learned how to make positive decisions regarding their treatment of others.
Blankets for Anna Marie’s Students made 27 fleece blankets for residents of Anna Marie’s, a shelter for battered women and their children. This classroom consisting of students with disabilities had a fellow student sheltered at Anna Marie’s for a time and made the blankets to provide warmth for the residents.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for Youth Area youth planned an event for January 17 to touch on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy of working towards achieving equality through non-violent means. The day included activities and conversation on ways area youth can work towards achieving equality in their community.