2017-01-22 / Insight

YAC students eager to enhance community

BY KRYSTAL MORALEE
810-452-2609 •


Jon Hundt, 12, Griffin Phillips, 13, and David Hart, 17, help to shop for toys for families through Holiday Depot. 
Photo by Alex Petrie Jon Hundt, 12, Griffin Phillips, 13, and David Hart, 17, help to shop for toys for families through Holiday Depot. Photo by Alex Petrie LAPEER — Middle and high school students aren’t the ones people generally think of to manage funds and award grants for the betterment of the community, but that’s exactly what the kids who make up the Lapeer County Community Foundation’s (LCCF) Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) do.

The LCCF was founded in 1996, after a donation of seed money from Bob and Lura Myers allowed funds and to be established. The interest earned on those funds — and scholarships that have been started through the foundation since — is used to enhance the community in any number of ways as groups and individuals apply for grants to fund various projects and reach goals. The YAC, one of 86 in the state, was started with seed money from the Kellogg Foundation and has grown from about five members to more than 30. Currently, said YAC advisor Jennifer Phillips, there is more than $500,000 in the YAC account, and the youth who make up the committee meet monthly to review grant requests that have come in and decide how to best utilize the funds available to them to make the greatest impact for youth throughout the community.


Alexis Kigar, 15, from Lapeer High School, Emma Hofert, 12, from North Branch Middle School, Allison Hofert, 17, from North Branch High School, Brooke Gibbons, 16, from Lapeer High School, and Maggie Bialek, 13, from Chatfield pitched in to help Christmas shop two families in need. 
Photos by Alex Petrie Alexis Kigar, 15, from Lapeer High School, Emma Hofert, 12, from North Branch Middle School, Allison Hofert, 17, from North Branch High School, Brooke Gibbons, 16, from Lapeer High School, and Maggie Bialek, 13, from Chatfield pitched in to help Christmas shop two families in need. Photos by Alex Petrie Last year, for example, YAC gave a grant to support the Almont High School robotics program, sponsored campers for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Lions Bear Lake Camp, bought books for third- and fourth-graders, purchased college textbooks for Dryden High School students, bought a backstage curtain for Orchard Primary School, and supported the One Book, One School program at Turrill Elementary. In addition, they stuffed backpacks for Lapeer County students, adopted two families for Christmas, and held a book drive for Family Literacy Center, among other activities.


Maxx Atwell, 17, of Lapeer has been involved with Lapeer’s Youth Advisory Committee for more than three years. Jennifer Phillips, right, is the advisor for the committee, also known as YAC. Maxx Atwell, 17, of Lapeer has been involved with Lapeer’s Youth Advisory Committee for more than three years. Jennifer Phillips, right, is the advisor for the committee, also known as YAC. Looking forward to this year, the YAC already awarded a grant toward Lapeer High School’s Project Graduation, opting to fund Vegas equipment, caricatures and henna tattoos during the graduation night party, and the LCCF’s main board opted to award a grant to that event as well.

“If it’s youth-related, it usually goes to YAC first,” said Phillips, who explained that sometimes the YAC will vote to partially fund a grant request, and will then present the option of chipping in to the main LCCF board.

Because YAC had a balance at the end of 2016, this year, they’re hoping to be able to do $20,000 worth of grants, Phillips said.

On Thursday evening, YAC got together to take a look at the Youth Needs Survey that is given through the schools to students in the seventh, ninth and eleventh grades to see what those students believe are the greatest needs of the youth in the community.

“Those results get tabulated, and that’s how YAC decides they’re going to spend the money for the year,” said Phillips.

YAC is not only of great value to the community, participation in the committee gives youth a variety of important life skills that will assist them throughout their lives. For one thing, it teaches them at a young age to think beyond themselves and address needs in the communities in which they live. They learn to work together, to budget, and to think through the reasons why grants should be awarded or denied. They also learn how to hold productive meetings and “run a room,” Phillips said.

“I just think these kids are phenomenal,” she said. “They’re a great group of kids. They’re learning about philanthropy, money management, leadership. They have the confidence to know how to run things and work with large groups of people. They also volunteer time and realize there are other people out there with needs. It’s a unique program.”

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