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Grants help students make a difference


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Wish granted: Adult project leader Kristen Lee-Oliver (from left) stands with Youth as Resources board member Allison Frazier, youth project leader Lesley Nickels and YAR youth board member Ginna Wood. Nickels' group was awarded $127.57 to fund the Social Seniors project.
Wish granted: Adult project leader Kristen Lee-Oliver (from left) stands with Youth as Resources board member Allison Frazier, youth project leader Lesley Nickels and YAR youth board member Ginna Wood. Nickels' group was awarded $127.57 to fund the Social Seniors project.


GREENFIELD — A dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to, but several Hancock County youths have found ways to stretch a buck while doing good this year.

At the Hancock County Youth as Resources kick-off celebration last week, just four of the 13 projects funded for the next year requested the full $1,000 grant. Jeannie Roberts, Hancock County YAR coordinator, said some of this year’s most impactful projects requested the smallest grants.

“That money is really going a long way,” Roberts said.

This year’s smallest grant was awarded to Lesley Nickels. The Greenfield-Central senior asked for just $127.57 to fund her Student Leadership Academy capstone project.

The extracurricular service organization requires its four-year members to develop their own community service project. Nickels’ project, called Social Seniors, serves seniors living at a local nursing home.

Twice a semester, Nickels and other volunteers host social activities and events at Springhurst, allowing residents to interact with each other and the student volunteers.

“It’s less about the actual activity and more about the interaction,” Nickels explained. “It’s about talking with them about their grandkids, what they’re doing, what they used to do.”

But that doesn’t stop Nickels from planning activities for the residents. For her first event, Nickels planned a fall crafting festival where residents decorated pumpkins and did other fall-themed crafts. Next, she’s planning a “Ladies Night In,” where female residents will get their hair and nails done.

Nickels said she was inspired to start the project after spending time with her own grandparents in a nursing home before they passed.

“I saw the impact youth have on the elderly,” she said.

The funding Nickels requested was just enough to cover the costs of supplies for the different events, which may include a dance in the spring. Because the events are held at Springhurst, Nickels said she’s hoping to impact at least a dozen seniors for relatively little cash.

It’s the same principle that has guided one of the most visible Youth as Resources projects in recent years: Teens Read the Way.

In its fourth year, Teens Read the Way will continue to be funded by YAR. The program pairs teens with young readers at both branches of the Hancock County Public Library during the library’s popular Summer Reading Club.

For just $301.45, the program reaches about 50 young readers each summer. The money goes toward small prizes that are given out each week to encourage kids to come back, and also buys a book for each child at the end of the summer.

“At the very last session we have a party to celebrate the end of the program and their achievements,” explained Sarah Dale, the group’s teen leader.

Now a well-established program, Roberts said Teens Read the Way is an example of what YAR grants can lead to.

“We’re just so proud of them,” Roberts said.

Sixteen funding requests were submitted to the YAR board this year; 13 were awarded grants totaling $9,154.34.

Roberts said the board focused on funding projects that kept in touch with priorities of the United Way of Central Indiana, which supports Youth as Resources.

Students have one year to complete their project. By the end of that year, dozens of Hancock County residents – young, old, disenfranchised, needy and disabled – will have benefited.

“It’s not just the importance of community service, but how to reach and prioritize what people really need,” Roberts said. “It’s a lifelong skill they’ll always use.”

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