DRIGGS, Idaho — Over the course of one day, Teton High seniors in advanced placement dual enrollment government classes, worked as a team to allocate grant money among local non-profits.

The Community Foundation of Teton Valley’s Youth Philanthropy Program unfolded on National Philanthropy Day (Wednesday, Nov. 15), culminating in an awards ceremony that honored this year’s grant winners.

Teton High student Brynn Klebesadel presents an award during the Youth Philanthropy Program awards ceremony. Photo: Community Foundation of Teton Valley

According to the announcement, Teton Valley’s Youth Philanthropy Program is in its thirteenth year, has distributed $65,000 in grant awards and over 500 seniors have participated and engaged in discussion, critical thinking, cooperation and debate.

“This is a wonderful program with many benefits,” government teacher and Mayor of Tetonia Brent Schindler said. “It helps teach the students about philanthropy and the importance of volunteering time and money. It teaches the students how we fund many of our non-profit organizations. It allows the students to participate in the important community dialogue regarding how to fund these important programs. It reinforces the importance of priorities between needs and wants in the community. It helps the students as they learn how to become responsible adults. I was heartened when many of the students offered to volunteer their personal time to many of these non-profit projects.” 

Schindler said that his two dual government classes were each awarded $3,500 in funds from Tin Cup Challengers, partners of the Community Foundation of Teton Valley and other private donors. According to Schindler, 11 local non-profits made presentations to his two dual government classes, and after thorough discussion over three class periods, the students then had to decide how to best allocate the funds among the charitable organizations.

Student Easton Caldwell’s biggest surprise was “how much free reign we had. I expected a lot more intervention from the adults; however, we were entirely able to make each and every decision.” 

Student Aiden Millard was “impressed that the leadership and maturity of the class allowed them to discuss and share opinions without judgement and decide, as a class, where the money should go.” 

“I just want people to understand how rewarding it feels to be given real money and trusted to donate it wisely,” student Taylor Amey said.

According to the Community Foundation of Teton Valley, students supported local non-profits in a variety of ways. Aska’s Animals will be able to house and better home puppies, the Education Foundation of Teton Valley will offer an annual back-to-school readiness event, Mountain Roots will grow its cooking program of 800 students, Seniors West of the Tetons will continue to deliver meals to seniors in reusable containers, Subs for Santa will purchase holiday gifts and necessities for teens, Teton County Idaho Search and Rescue will be able to provide more effective trainings, Teton Valley Community Recycling will reduce waste through new programming, the Teton Valley Food Pantry will provide nutritious holiday food for those in need and the Teton Valley Foundation will strengthen their hockey program by supporting new goalies.

Participating students were rewarded for their efforts with a pizza party at the end of the day.

Leigh Reagan Smith is a wildlife and community news reporter. Originally a documentary filmmaker, she has lived in the valley since 1997. Leigh enjoys skiing, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and interviewing interesting people for her podcast, SoulRise.