GREENFIELD — There’s no question senior Miles Wayer and junior Michael Ertel feel fulfilled by the work they do for the Hancock County Community Foundation’s youth board.

The Mt. Vernon High School students are serving their second year on the board, which brings together 16 students from the county’s four high schools to promote philanthropy and community in the local school system.

The students gain leadership skills while spearheading fundraising projects, networking with community leaders and helping to plan events.

Story continues below gallery

Wayer and Ertel are two of four students from Mt. Vernon High School who sit on the board. There are also four each from Greenfield-Central High School, New Palestine High School and Eastern Hancock High School.

The students are chosen by administrators at their school to serve on the board. The criteria vary from school to school, and some students serve four-year terms while others serve just one.

Michelle Leonard, advancement officer for the community foundation, said the purpose of the organization is twofold. It gives students leadership skills and teaches them the importance of giving back to their communities.

The projects vary from year to year, but the students always lead the celebration of the county’s birthday in local schools, which includes planning activities to educate their peers about Hancock County history. The activities change from year to year when new students join the board. Last year, the students planned 186 acts of kindness for the county’s 186th birthday by performing and encouraging others to do something kind for others.

Wayer, who joined the organization last year, said that when he joined he was eager to give back to the community.

This year, he and 15 others raised $23,000 to benefit the county’s school foundations. That money was matched through the community foundation, totaling $65,000 for the four foundations.

At Mt. Vernon, the money helped offset the cost of equipping every student with a Chromebook this year, Wayer said.

Participating in the youth board also prepares him for the future, he said. Students are advised by administrators and Leonard, but the students lead the efforts. That experience, he said, is preparing him for life after high school.

“There’s definitely no question this by far has been one of the best things I’ve done so far,” he said.

Ertel echoed those sentiments, saying he’s happy with his decision to join the youth board. Being able to raise money for his school was rewarding, he said.

“The things we do help everyone in the school and the community,” he said.

This year, the youth board helped with the community foundation’s match day, which raised funds for 12 Hancock County nonprofits. Leonard said that experience taught the students the importance of donations for nonprofits and how difficult it can sometimes be to raise that money.

The students’ efforts have an impact on their schools and the county as a whole, she said. And being a member of the board is a good opportunity for students to understand the importance of giving back while developing leadership skills that will benefit them throughout their lives, she said.

“We’re able to see what our future leaders look like,” Leonard said. “Philanthropy is all about time, talent and treasure, and we want to instill that in our youth board.”

About this series

National Philanthropy Week celebrates the people who make their communities a better place to live and work. This week, the Daily Reporter pays tribute to those whose selfless acts make Hancock County a place we are proud to call home.

Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or