Students research and then make presentations to philanthropists from HAND and Koum Family Foundations to fund worthy NGOs and learn to engage in purposes larger than themselves
The Youth Philanthropy Project is an annual partnership between Menlo’s Global Issues class and the HAND Foundation. History teacher Matthew Nelson begins the semester by encouraging Global Issues students to explore social issues that align with their interests and values and to research NGOs that make the most impact toward the causes that concern them most. They examine each organization critically by researching their impact, calculating their funding sources and seeing how they allocate the money they receive. Then, they contact the organization of their choice to ask deeper questions about their operations before presenting their chosen NGOs to the class.
After a student-led peer voting process, eight finalists are selected to refine their presentations for an actual ask to philanthropic leaders for real grants to support their chosen NGOs. This year, Yana Kalika, the Executive Director of Koum Family Foundation and mother of David ’28, joined HAND Co-Founder and President Nosheen Hashemi to hear the students’ presentations.
“The students are asked to think about what matters most to them,” said Nelson. “As a citizen of the world, what issues would they like to tackle? They create a docket, which is a list of NGOs that they’ve researched, and once they have narrowed them down to three, they scrutinize the executive team and reach out to them. They’ve never read a financial statement before, so I teach them how to read them—what to look for, what successes or what upward trends look like—and I ask them to think comparatively about this NGO relative to other NGOs working on a similar issue.”
From Amazon forest preservation to coastal reef conservation, child poverty, and even rats that can test for tuberculosis and assist in land mine removal, the students narrowed down their interests, made detailed presentations, practiced their pitches, and presented their findings to Kalika and Hashemi who visited the campus to be present in the classroom.
“The hope of the whole project is that the students will take what they’ve learned and realize that anybody can be a philanthropist,” continued Nelson. “You don’t have to have a lot of money to be generous and altruistic. I hope that students cultivate a sense of giving back to the world and maybe even empower their agency—to understand that they can make a change. They can make a difference through their donations, through their philanthropy, and as they move into their adult lives and careers, that they will see it as their responsibility to contribute back to the improvement of the planet. One of Menlo’s missions is to educate students to engage in purposes larger than themselves. As educators, we all strive to expand their worldview, but Global Issues—by its very nature—is well-suited to accomplish this aspect of the School’s mission.”
After seeing the presentations from the students, the HAND Foundation and the Koum Family Foundation decided to allocate $2,000 to each of the finalists for a total of eight NGOs receiving $16,000 in grants. The 2022 Youth Philanthropy Project for Mr. Nelson’s Global Issues class included the following finalists and the NGOs they represented:
- Erica ’23 – Amazon Watch, which protects the Amazon rainforest and works to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil.
- Eddie ’23 – International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which consists of medical groups—doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens—in over 60 countries which share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation and armed violence.
- Jane ’23 – Reclaim Childhood, which empowers refugee and local girls in Jordan through sports.
- Ben ’24 – Reef Check Worldwide, which works to replenish ocean reefs and kelps through application of knowledge from successful reefs to struggling ones.
- Paige ’24 – Water1st international, which provides easily accessible water in order to prevent disease and open up an array of educational and economic opportunities.
- Justin ’23 – APOPO, which trains rats both to detect tuberculosis in test samples and to assist in land mine removal using their sense of smell.
- Bradford ’24 – Amazon Conservation Association, which works to advance conservation of the Amazon Basin and all of its inhabitants.
- Danae ’24 – Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, which first rescues Vietnamese children from poverty, slavery and sex trafficking, and then delivers personalized counseling and educational opportunities to them.