Program empowers students to make difference


HANCOCK COUNTY — Local reading initiatives, 5K run/walk events and programs rallying support for the needy are often the work of nonprofits with full-time staff and steady funding, but this spring and summer, dozens of local teen volunteers are heading up efforts to improve their communities.

Eleven groups of local students recently received a combined $10,500 in funding for community service projects through Youth as Resources, a program supported by the United Way of Central Indiana that empowers youth to make an impact.

The program challenges local students to identify community needs and design projects using their own skills, energy and creativity. To qualify for funding, participants present to a panel of local professionals and make a case for what their proposal will do to make a difference in the community.

This year’s projects range from an effort to reduce local mosquito populations to a program designed to teach life skills, including time and money management, to people with special needs who are transitioning to the professional world.

Youth as Resources supports local youth who have the passion to take on serious issues but don’t have the necessary funding to follow through with their plans, said Jeannie Roberts, volunteer engagement coordinator with the local United Way office.

Groups have one year to complete their projects before the funding expires, Roberts said.

Jeremy Large, a teacher at New Palestine High School, challenged students in his advanced business management class to apply for the grants.

Large incorporated the program into his class curriculum, tasking students to brainstorm ideas to improve the community, then write out a detailed proposal outlining costs and a proposed timeline for their projects.

Large said the program allows students a chance to work on their public speaking skills – a key to success in the business world.

Gabbie Pierson, Alicia Petrow and Katie Villiger, all seniors in Large’s business management class, received more than $900 for their program, Bedtime Bags for Hope House. The students plan to fill drawstring bags with books, blankets and stuffed animals, then deliver the bags to children at the Hancock County Hope House, the county’s only homeless shelter.

The students plan to spend a day with children at the Hope House before delivering the bags.

“We know many kids don’t have as many privileges as we do,” Petrow said.

Staff writer Kristy Deer contributed to this report.