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Students Give Out $10,000 to Charities

Students Give Out $10,000 to Charities


Four Cortland area nonprofit agencies benefited in a material way from a unique SUNY Cortland course this spring that focused on the practical side of philanthropy.

The lucky organizations, chosen from among local charities and agencies that submitted applications for a share of $10,000 in funding from the Boston-based Learning by Giving Foundation, were formally announced on May 7 during a ceremony in Old Main Colloquium.

“It was ‎a phenomenal experience working with my colleagues to help Cortland County,” said political science major Tyler Long of Carmel, N.Y., who took the  Philanthropy and Civic Engagement: Learning by Giving class.

“In this class I learned that it is very difficult to decide how to give,” said classmate Euisuk “Dennis” Yoon, a sophomore biology major and exchange student from Seoul, South Korea.

The course is sponsored locally by the Political Science Department and the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement.

During the Learning by Giving Foundation Grant Awards Celebration, the 19 students who took the political science course met representatives from the organizations that will benefit from their many hours of analysis, discussion, consensus-building and decision-making.

SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Henry Steck, a professor of political science at SUNY Cortland, introduced and welcomed the Learning by Giving Grant recipients.

Steck co-taught the course this year with Barbara Barton, an assistant professor in the College’s Health Department and a specialist in community health.

Speakers included Richard Kendrick, director of the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement and a professor of sociology/anthropology; Barton; and Amy Henderson-Harr, assistant vice president of the College’s Research and Sponsored Programs Office.

The students’ grant decisions this year were focused on human services with an emphasis on families and children in need.

The awardees that split the $10,000 and the projects supported are as follows:

  • The Cortland Area Communities That Care received an award for $2,052 to develop a plan to assess Cortland County literacy and promote students reading at their appropriate grade levels.
  • The Cortland Prevention Resources will use its $2,625 grant to support social and recreational outings planned for participants in its Youth Assist Program, a mentoring program for children between the ages of 8 and 18.
  • The J.M. McDonald Sports Complex earned $2,040 in funding for summer camp scholarships and state-mandated camp counselor training.
  • The Preble Children’s Center was presented a $2,283 grant to create a garden at the day care center and to participate in a local community shared agriculture group purchasing locally produced vegetables.

The event marks the fourth time the Learning by Giving Foundation had awarded a $10,000 grant to SUNY Cortland so a class could learn about philanthropy by actually distributing the money to not-for-profit institutions that applied. To date $40,000 has been distributed to community organizations. All of the funding is distributed to the local agencies and none can be spent on grant administration.

The Learning by Giving Foundation seeks to advance the next generation's understanding of philanthropy by providing the financial, technological and intellectual tools to experience community impact and to make that knowledge widely accessible through an online forum.

The courses are intended to introduce as many students as possible to the power and potential of philanthropy and to encourage those who may not have explored this area in their undergraduate career.

“My course has three broad purposes,” Steck observed before the ceremony. “The first goal was to learn about the historical, social and political context of charity and philanthropy in America from the colonial period onward.

"The second was a pre-professional hands-on education about the grants process and about the challenges facing not-for-profits in a practical sense. The students were introduced to the tough, tough process of awarding grants to local non-profits and to learning about the needs of the Cortland community.

"The final goal was to help students develop their own values and commitments. The course combines classroom study with experiential exposure to the grants process.”

Cortland Communities that Care
Students in the Philanthropy and Civic Engagement: Learning by Giving course were on hand May 7 to congratulate a Cortland Communities That Care representative whose local charity was among those selected as Learning by Giving Foundation grant winners. Above left are students meeting the Cortland Prevention Resources official on hand to accept another grant.

Giving away money may seem like an easy thing to do, but doing it effectively can be very difficult, as many of the students quickly realized.

As the semester wound to its end, the students evaluated eight proposals from the local non-profit agencies and charities. They devised their own fair and effective selection process to identify the most creative, efficient and beneficial community organizations to support. They determined how large a slice of the grant pie to serve each. From the start, they proceeded with their decision-making knowing they might give all the money to one agency or in increments of at least $2,000 to different entities.

With the grant restrictions it was very difficult to narrow the field to four, Yoon said.

“I had to be sort of cold and merciless but also kind of warmhearted, too,” Yoon said. “Reviewing all those proposals I thought was going to be boring. But the more I read, the more interesting it was. What we thought was only a few days of reviewing proposals became a few weeks.

“I think that philanthropy is something everyone should learn how to do,” Yoon said.

Yoon was among several foreign exchange students in the class. Over the years, the course has enrolled students from Romania, Turkey, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and Norway.

For more information, contact Steck at 607-753-4807.