High-schoolers hand out $5,200 in grants aid to SH nonprofits

Scott Swanson

For students in Sweet Home High School’s Leadership Class, giving out $5,200 was a learning experience.

The Leadership students participated in the inaugural Community 101 program, which connects students to neighborhood issues, such as hunger, homelessness and child abuse. The class received a donation from Tim and Jo Ann McQueary to make eight grants. Students raised $200 to add to the McQuearys’ donation, teacher Chris Hiaasen said.

Students sent letters to local non-profit organizations soliciting applications, then reviewed the 11 grant applications and conducted site visits and interviews with representatives of the nonprofits.

Grants were made based on perceived needs and in line with their mission statement, which addressed “the stressors that cause abuse, i.e. domestic, drug and alcohol, child, etc., among individuals and families in Sweet Home. Through our philanthropy and determination and with funds from the McQueary family, we will work to meet the needs of local nonprofits that address these issues in our community.”

They presented the awards Monday, April 20, in the high school library.

Jennesa Datema of the Oregon Community Foundation, which has conducted Community 101 for the past eight of the program’s 17-year existence, said it is active in some 50 schools around the state. Another participant is West Albany High School, which has two classes devoted to the program.

Datema said Jo Ann McQueary has been interested in the program for years and decided she wanted to establish it at Sweet Home High School.

Students Ryan Adams and Gracie Olson presented the awards, as classmates took pictures and coordinated the event.

The grant process was an eye-opener for them, students said.

Freshman Bryce Coulter said he discovered that grant-making is a “long-haul process.”

“So is reading them.”

The site visits, he said, opened his eyes to problems in the community.

He said it was difficult, making decisions on who got money, “because everybody can use it.”

Junior Ty Plebuch said he experienced some things he didn’t expect.

“I didn’t even know about some of these programs,” he said. “It’s a humbling process.”

Sophomore Kylie Johnson said her mother has been involved in grant writing for efforts to help overseas orphanages through Sweet Home Church of the Nazarene.

“Going through this, now I know what goes into it,” she said. “I might be able to help her next year.”

The McQuearys were able to sit in on some of the students’ deliberations, and Jo Ann McQueary said she was pleased with the outcome.

“I think it accomplished everything it was intended to do,” Jo Ann McQueary said. “It created awareness in kids regarding needs, what the community can do to take care of these needs. It took them outside themselves.

“Personally, it’s very satisfying. The students have awareness of how it all works, how communities support each other. They learned that there is a lot of gratification in serving.”

Receiving grants are the following programs:

– “Bee Country,” Sweet Home High School beekeeping program, $500, to provide a hands-on, lab-based alternate option for students requiring remedial science credit retrieval.

– “Story Time Book Project,” Holley School Parent-Teacher Organization, $500, to provide one book of the child’s choice to every

elementary student in Sweet Home.

– “Project Backpack,” Harvest Christian Center, $750, to provide free backpacks and school supplies to Sweet Home K-12 students. Community 101 over-funded this project by $250 to enable the program to add backpacks to the high school supply list.

– “Benevolence Program, Sweet Home Assemby of God, $700, to help those in need to pay for utilities and rent.

– “Parenting Project,” Sweet Home Pregnancy Care Center, $824, to buy parenting education program DVDs.

– “Youth Sports Teams,” Holley Christian Church, $850, to provide scholarships for Boys and Girls Club sports to sponsor teams.

– “Packaging Project,” Fair Share Gleaners, $300, to purchase packaging material for food distribution.

– “Cart Us Away,” Sweet Home Emergency Ministries, $776, to purchase industrial duty-rated service carts for emergency food pantry and meal site use.

Community 101 is a school-based program that Sweet Home’s Leadership Class surveyed the student body, identified issues important to the student body, researched nonprofits, requested grant applications, reviewed applications, invited applicants to make a presentation to the class, visited grant sites and awarded the grants.

In addition, students raised $200 to add to the donation of $5,000, Hiaasen said. Students also donated 55 hours to Sweet Home Emergency Ministries as part of the program.