April 22, 2023

Teenagers sure do know how to make headlines. With hundreds of kids participating in a huge fight this month at World of Fun, it’s easy to paint all teens with a single brush — troublemakers.

Yes, there are issues that need to be addressed. Young people need a positive outlet for their feelings and frustrations. But it’s important to remember that many local teens are working diligently to better themselves and their communities. I would like to highlight these local teens.

For 25 years, Truman Heartland Community Foundation has worked with area high school students through a unique program called Youth Advisory Council (YAC). Through YAC, students from schools throughout the area come together to collaborate and create positive change in the cities where they live. We have valedictorians and gamers, honor society members and theater kids, city kids and 4-H; they are all pretty amazing young people who are actively doing good.

Just a few weeks ago, YAC members hosted their annual fundraiser. Held on April 1, Strike in the Night – A Fool’s Delight was a cosmic bowling event fit for the whole family. Thanks to an overwhelming response from numerous donors, the event was fully sponsored and raised more than $5,100. The funds raised were added to the Youth Advisory Council Endowment Fund, the proceeds of which the students will distribute back into the community through the grantmaking process later in the year. Last year, YAC provided grant funding to Angel Flight Central, Inc., Giving the Basics, Inc., Marian Hope, and the SE Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Inc.

Taking an active role in the Foundation’s grantmaking process is one of our YAC program’s most interesting and unique duties. Students visit local nonprofits to learn first-hand about the projects they are looking to have funded through the Foundation’s Competitive Grants process. Members are encouraged to discuss grant proposals based on everything from the nonprofit’s financial statements to their projected outcomes. The discussions are always so interesting as these students have different perspectives than the adults in the room. There is always a lot of thoughtful dialogue, open communication, and collaboration, though. It may not make for a great headline, but I think it is noteworthy, nonetheless.

Now that the fundraiser is behind them, the YAC students are working on their next project, the 9th Annual Fill Those Trucks Food Drive. YAC has teamed up with our good friends at Hy-Vee again this year and will be collecting donations at four area Hy-Vee locations on Saturday, April 29, 2023, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The participating Hy-Vee locations are 40 Hwy and 7 Hwy in Blue Springs, 40 Hwy and Noland Road in Independence, 3rd and Ward in Lee’s Summit, and 350 Hwy in Raytown.

You will find YAC members (with adult support) volunteering their time to collect donations from patrons in front of the participating locations. Donations of non-perishable food items, household cleaners, and personal care products will all be gladly accepted. Community Services League, Lee’s Summit Social Services, and Raytown Emergency Assistance Program will be the beneficiaries of this year’s effort.

I am always impressed by our YAC students. They really work at practicing active philanthropy. They give back by volunteering, fundraising, grantmaking, and community service. For 25 years, the Youth Advisory Council has held an important seat at the Foundation’s decision-making table. I am proud of their contributions and impressed by their accomplishments. I know I will see many of these young people again, a few years from now, as they are bound to be the next generation of local community leaders, stakeholders, and philanthropists.

If you know an area high school Freshman, Sophomore, or Junior that might be interested in our YAC program, please send them our way. They can visit our website at thcf.org/students/youth-advisory-council or reach out to Diana Castillo, THCF Director of Grants and Donor Services, at castillo@thcf.org or 816-912-4184 for more information. We are always looking to engage new members in this important work.

Phil Hanson is the President and CEO of Truman Heartland Community Foundation. Truman Heartland Community Foundation (THCF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through cooperation with community members and donors. THCF serves the region with assets of more than $50 million and annual grants surpassing $4.8 million. For more information on charitable giving, visit www.thcf.org or call Truman Heartland at 816.836.8189.