Menlo News December 06, 2023

Youth Philanthropy Project Earns Grants for Global NGOs

Students select, research, and pitch unsung NGO heroes to earn grants, empathy, and a sense of purpose.

Each fall, Menlo’s Advanced History seminar, Global Issues for Global Citizens, partners with the HAND Foundation and the Koum Family Foundation for the course’s culminating assignment, the Youth Philanthropy Project. “These juniors and seniors have dedicated themselves to the study of international affairs, justice frameworks, and a range of global issues,” says History teacher Matthew Nelson.

For a month, students learn what makes an effective NGO, vet a docket of organizations dedicated to a global issue they are most committed to addressing, and establish a relationship with a representative from the NGO of their choosing. Each student researches the impact, transparency, finances, and effectiveness of their selected organization, delivering a five-minute informed and impassioned pitch to their classmates to determine which will advance to the final round. 

Six finalists were selected to refine their presentations to pitch to philanthropic leaders for actual grants to support their NGOs. In the final round, esteemed philanthropists Yana Kalika, the Executive Director of Koum Family Foundation and mother of David ’28, and Nosheen Hashemi, HAND Co-Founder and President, were in the audience.

“A parameter of the project is that they choose an organization that takes an annual revenue of no less than $300,000 and no more than approximately $7 or 8 million,” says Mr. Nelson. “So they’re not able to choose some of the superstar NGOs. That’s the point of the Youth Philanthropy Project, to uplift these sort of unsung NGOs in the world.”

After the presentations, the HAND Foundation and the Koum Family Foundation decide whether to allocate funds to each of the NGOs. This year, the two foundations contributed a total of $15,000 in grants to all six finalists. A Youth Philanthropy Project record! 

But perhaps even more valuable is the project’s impact, which goes well beyond the classroom and imbues life-changing lessons. 

“I developed this personal connection that no longer focused on the pitch,” said Avani ’25. “I stopped pitching for money, but started pitching on my commitment to funding this NGO.” As a member of Menlo’s Mock Trial team, Avani presented a clear and cogent case for support of The World Stroke Organization. “I think it really inspired me to pursue a career that has to do with philanthropy because of the impact that you can make,” she said. 

Sophie ’25 shared similar sentiments, admitting to her initial competitiveness. “I kind of started out with this project because I wanted to win. I wanted to get the money…But the more I learned about Invisible Girl Project, I really connected with it. And I really started to care. And it kind of became more than just the money.”

Other Global Issues students noticed how difficult it was for their NGOs to work within the governmental systems of the countries they operate in, and the tensions between the organization’s potential and the very real roadblocks they face.

Though he didn’t make it to the final round, Clifford ’25 noticed a parallel between his research on prosthetic legs in developing countries and his aspirations to be a mechanical engineer. “This inspired me to maybe seek a career path that has to do with…engineering solutions for developing countries,” he shared. “…it was really powerful, and I felt like I could connect to it from the mechanical and the human and empathetic points of view.” 

These are precisely the types of takeaways that Mr. Nelson dreamt of when designing the Youth Philanthropy Project for his Global Issues course. “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…that they will see it as their responsibility to contribute back to the improvement of the planet.”

2023 finalists include:


  • Avani ’25 for The World Stroke Organization
  • Sophie ’25 for Invisible Girl Project
  • Bryan ’25 for Pangea
  • Nikhil ’24 for Pakistan Children’s Heart Foundation
  • Amelie ’25 for Miraclefeet
  • James ’25 for Fauna and Flora International

Honorable Mentions: 

  • Ben ’25 for Pencils of Promise 
  • Ryan ’24 for The Masarat Initiative