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Over the past five years I've had the pleasure of talking to many adults that mentor youth through their programs. Audiences come from a variety of youth-serving organizations including school and afterschool programs, foundations supporting youth leadership, and even children's choirs and museums! Most of these adults have something in common; they learned philanthropic behaviors (giving and serving) by seeing the actions of an adult in their own lives. Many times that person is a parent or grandparent, a teacher that helped them develop a talent, or a youth pastor that provided constructive service opportunities.

This illustration (A Path to Growing Lifelong Philanthropists) highlights some of the entry points when philanthropic concepts and opportunities can be introduced within a young person's life. They are based on child development concepts, the psychological and emotional changes that occur as a young person progresses from dependency to increasing independence.

Tree and plant Jill Gordon

  • Preschool-age children (3-5) are explorers; they learn caring behaviors and attitudes from the examples of others.
  • School-age youth (6-10) are ready to explore character development and decision-making.
  • In middle childhood (11-13) young people start to think about their place in the world and may dig deeper to express more concern for others.
  • Teens (14-18) express more complex thinking and a deeper capacity for sharing and caring.

Let's take a moment to think about who introduced philanthropic behaviors in your life. Who inspired you to GIVE your time and help others? When did you begin to SERVE those around you? Why are you still ENGAGED in helping youth succeed? Who lit the SPARK in your life and what did they teach you? Mentors open the world up to young people, exposing them ideas and nurturing the unique talents they possess. It's also important for us to help youth explore their values and concerns. One of my favorite activities is writing a "Personal Mission Statement", a summary of the aims and values of an individual. If you are working with younger youth, ask them to think of two items they'd "put in their boat" or rescue if their home was about to be destroyed by flood waters.

To continue this journey of Nurturing Lifelong Philanthropists, here are some ways to empower lifelong serving habits in others and to fuel impactful programming and experiences for young people.

philinthropic photo Jill Gordon

Start Early and Stay Sticky with examples of caring and sharing.

  • Introduce and nurture caring behaviors in your programs. Celebrate the positive emotions that come with helping others. Ask your young people to describe ways they can "care" and "share" in the classroom.
  • Introduce appropriate vocabulary; philanthropy may be a hard word but it's fun to say it this way, "Phil's Aunt Throws Peas!"
  • Seek ways to attach philanthropic labels to desired behaviors: recycle, mentor, vote, share, care, volunteer, serve, give, donate, and lead.

Develop philanthropic behaviors and attitudes through giving of time, talent, and treasure.

  • Communicate the benefits of volunteering and serving in your own life.
  • Make philanthropic activities routine in your programs; work with the community to develop relationships. Invite local nonprofits to speak with your youth and pair that with a hands-on service project.
  • Cultivate "good experiences" by incorporating youth's skills and interests, contributions should be empowering!

Expand opportunities for youth service, leadership, and engagement. Conduct a community needs assessment with the youth in your programs.

  • List the top five needs/concerns in their community (or school, program, etc.)
  • Work in small groups to narrow down to top three.
  • Agree on the number one community need and create an action plan/service project!

For more ideas and activities check out the Youth as Philanthropist resource for hands-on activities that help youth explore the time, talent, and treasure they have to share with others. Visit these Helpful Links to learn about programs and resources that will help you integrate concepts of giving and serving (youth philanthropy) into your programs through service-learning and philanthropic education.

Most importantly, remember the spark your mentors lit inside of you and pass that along to the youth in your lives.

Sun  Jill Gordon

For first breakfast, two eggs, a piece of toast with honey, and two cups of coffee. Second breakfast (a meeting) two oat bites (Cherry Almond and Pistachio), a fancy Americano drink that had apple juice and lemon in it, and herbal mint tea!

Published in Breakfast Club

Learning doesn’t always have to be teacher led. There are other models that create authentic experiences for students and are closer to what they will experience once they are finished with school. Last spring, a group of high school juniors came to me, wanting to explore the intersection of art and technology using both paper and sewn circuitry. I had never worked with either before but was excited to learn these tools myself, so I eagerly agreed to the project.  Tinkering alongside your students might sound scary, but it's a great way to model the learning process. For the first few weeks we met and played with materials, using online tutorials and YouTube videos as resources. My students constantly looked to me for answers and I enjoyed their continued surprise when I responded by saying that I had no idea how to do something. I would ask them what they needed to know and how they thought they could find answers. My students quickly learned to ask thoughtful questions, and which online sites were good resources.

When we tried things and they didn’t work they way we hoped my students would get frustrated. Again, they would turn to me to solve the problem. Although I genuinely didn’t know how, it was uncomfortable for me not to provide answers. Often this would happen at the end of our time together for the week. I found they needed time to process failure. But soon, they would be back in my classroom sharing their strategies for figuring out where we had gone wrong and eager to dive back in. I could see the shift as my students discovered that learning is a process that is fully engaging and that they could be in charge of their own journey. They became the leaders of our inquiry, and I a true co-participant. Their self-confidence grew and they wanted to take what they had learned and share it with others.

We teamed up with a first grade class at one of the elementary schools in our district. The first grade teacher didn’t understand circuitry, but when we talked about the possibilities, she was excited. Her students had collaborated on stories, which they wrote and illustrated on iPads. Each group then identified their main character and the problem they had to solve in the story. Their art teacher helped them make their main characters into stuffed felt animals in his class. And then my students arrived. Every Wednesday, for six weeks, my students would leave high school and travel to the elementary school across town. Each teamed up with a group and taught them about electricity and circuits. Then they helped them plan and draw their circuits. Each stuffed animal would have one object that when attached by snaps would complete the sewn circuit and light the tiny LED. The younger students were excited and couldn't wait for Wednesday afternoons when the “big kids” came to their classroom.

led circuit

My juniors loved working with the younger students but were nervous about being considered the experts in the room. We talked about how it feels to be the teacher and how teachers aren't really the holders of all knowledge anymore. If students can use YouTube and other online tutorials to learn, then what is the role of the teacher? The model of learning together, teacher and students participating in the journey side by side, is important today as more and more content is available online. By modeling the learning journey, being vulnerable and admitting that something is hard, but persevering through the struggle, teachers can teach the most valuable lesson there is: that all learning is a process. It's not linear. It can be bumpy, frustrating and discouraging, but ultimately worth it. Modeling the tools to get through the hard moments is valuable but also creates a different kind of bond with your students. They know you're in it together.

Our young students finished their light-up stuffed animals and presented them at our final celebration by proudly reading their stories. My students became masters of their own learning journeys and felt the power of sharing that process with others, both young and old.

 

For breakfast, I had oatmeal with raisins and coconut milk! 

Follow Lisa Yokana on Twitter @lyokana59. 

Published in Breakfast Club

When you were young, how active was your imagination? Did you believe in the ghost in the closet? The spirits in the attic? Or the monster under the bed? As young people we created amazing stories that filled our minds with untrue ideas. As we matured and became more educated, we were able to change the stories, decipher what was true or false, and understand how to think more clearly and productively. However, below are some thoughts about where the little green monsters reside in us today.

Do you ever sit in a meeting and act like you were listening, but really think that the speaker isn't projecting his/her idea in the best way? Do you find yourself thinking you already know what someone is going to say next? When having a conversation with another professional in the field, do you compare your program and ability to theirs? When problem-solving with a director, do you think you know how to do it better? If you said 'yes' to any of the above, I believe that the little green monster is living inside your head, whispering ideas and thoughts that are keeping you from: being present, being a contributor, being open to fresh ideas -- and ultimately preventing you from being a collaborative and contributive team player.

In 2011, I took a course from a leadership development group called 2130 Partners. One of the most impactful sessions I attended was called the File Cabinet. In summary, our brains are like a storage space, a 'file cabinet' that collects our past experiences. Often, in work situations or in personal situations, when listening to others our file cabinet starts sorting the information based on what we know. The filing cabinet urges us to form an opinion and then it tells us not to focus on what is being said -- thus pulling us away from actually listening. Then the subtext begins: "He or she is way off base" or "That's not the best way to run this event" or "That idea is lame," etc. When that happens to me, I know the mischievous little green monster is alive and well, letting my imagination run amok. I know I am no longer listening, participating, and staying open to the actual conversation at that very moment. I've been distracted and have become filled with judgment and ego. Here's how I fix it: Even when I'm right (just kidding), I try to listen to the information as if it is the first time I'm hearing it. I work hard on staying open and being able to receive new information. This lesson has improved my participation in team meetings and in my consulting business by really being present. It reminds me that I am always a student.

I choose to keep my imagination alive and energized. I am not going to allow the little green monster to whisper dirty or false secrets in my ear, nor prevent me from waking up each day to the wonderment of what will come next. I want to get up in the morning unafraid of what's under the bed.

This morning and every morning I have had a vegetable smoothie. (Yes, I brought my juicer to the BOOST conference and made smoothies EVERY SINGLE MORNING!)

Published in Breakfast Club

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