Young adults dispense philanthropy Teens award grants to peers' projects

November 13, 1995|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,SUN STAFF

At Youth as Resources, teen-agers and young adults are on the brink of some big decisions.

They're deciding whether to grant money to the 14-year-olds who want to hold teen dances in Essex or to help a Walbrook High senior organize a seminar for teens. Or maybe finance a walk-a-thon to help build houses for the poor.

The philosophy at Youth as Resources (YAR) is that young people are uniquely qualified to make the call about programs by and for young people. In this grant-making venture, they play a real-life role as philanthropists.

Under the supervision of adult administrators, teens and young adults read proposals from nonprofit projects, hear presentations, then hold discussions before deciding which projects should receive awards.

"We decided to come here and make a difference," said Tyra Dailey, who chairs the youth committee of YAR. At 22, she's the group's oldest youth member. She dropped out of high school but is working toward her equivalency diploma and is active in a number of volunteer efforts.

YAR was started last year by a donation from the Morris Goldseker Foundation.

It contributed $80,000 to the National Crime Prevention Council, which administers Youth as Resources programs throughout the country.

In its first year of operation, YAR awarded $23,200 in grants from $230 to $2,024 for 20 projects,said Martha Holleman, YAR's staff member.

"The whole notion of what Youth as Resources should be about is putting young people's ideas to work for the community," Ms. Holleman said. "This is to see youth as the source of the solution, not the source of the problem."

Youth members were selected upon the recommendation of nonprofit organizations funded by the Baltimore Community Foundation. Thirteen youths and six adults were on the committee this year.

A recent meeting of YAR committee members gave a peek into how the group works.

Seven casually dressed young members and two adult advisers listened to half-hour presentations by applicants in the foundation's conference room at its building on Read Street near Charles Street.

First they heard Jessie Margolis and Nina Casgar of Bryn Mawr School describe plans for a walk-a-thon to benefit Habitat for Humanity. The girls wanted to deal with the homelessness problem, they said, and help unite the community. They asked for $1,000 to buy T-shirts and snacks and to pay for other expenses for walkers.

Then there was a rapid-fire presentation by Orlando Yarborough III and Chenel Murray, two 14-year-olds in Essex who believe dances and movies will keep their peers out of trouble. They asked for $1,300 for stereo equipment, lighting, music and other equipment.

Orlando and Chenel appeared nervous as they began speaking to the committee, most of whose members were only a few years older than they are. But they soon were made comfortable.

"We try to smile a lot because of the nervousness," Ms. Dailey, 22, explained later. "We try to loosen them up because of the nervousness. But little do they know, we're nervous, too."

But that doesn't keep them from peppering the applicants with questions.

"What are you going to do with the money?" asked Laura Grosshans, an 18-year-old senior at Roland Park Country School.

"Will students from Baltimore with proper I.D. be turned away?" Contrell Goode, a 17-year-old student at Dunbar High, wanted to know.

"Will there be adult supervisors?" inquired Derrick Paige, a 14-year-old Polytechnic Institute student.

"We want our community to know that youths can make a difference," Chenel said. "That we can start things on our own. We want them to know that youths aren't all negative. That we can do something positive."

The committee thanked the applicants for their time, then prepared for the next presentation, by Mario Buckson, a Walbrook senior who is president of the Liberty Health System School Partnership Program.

Mr. Buckson asked for $1,500 of the $2,700 it will take to put together a seminar on teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, date rape and other issues for young people.

By the time it was over, Mr. Buckson, 18, the Student Government Association president at Walbrook, was at least as impressed by Youth as Resources as its members were with his proposal.

"I have a question," he said before leaving. "How can I get into this?"

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