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YOUTH GRANTMAKERS ALUMNI STORIES

Crystal BocetaCrystal Boceta

(2010 – 2012 participation in program)

I was in the YGC Class of 2012 and am currently attending UCLA as a Communication Studies and Global Studies Major.  YGC was one of the most significant aspects of my life in high school.  I made many great friends, gained important knowledge, and networked with powerful figures in the community that I never would have had access to otherwise.  YGC introduced me to all aspects of philanthropy, including processes of allocating funds, hands-on labor, and learning about multiple different causes.

            In my transition to college, I knew that I still wanted humanitarian work to be a part of my life.  One value I learned at YGC is that philanthropy is not some leadership position to put on a resume or application, but a lifestyle.  I learned quickly that philanthropy in college is a lot different than philanthropy in high school.  I’ve noticed that student fundraising in college is innovative, creative and exciting -- there are a ton of options out there other than the usual bake sale or car wash.  I have been introduced to dance marathons, relay races, awkward haircuts for charity, and more. I was used to the organizations I was involved in being facilitated by an adult in a position of authority.  However, student-run organizations in college opened up opportunities for leadership that I never would have considered before. 

            My experiences at YGC still follow me today.  The students that make up YGC all come from different backgrounds that correlate with the many different kinds of people I have had to work with in college.  Not only do I regularly interact with YGC alumni at UCLA, but I always remember the lessons I learned from the youth grantmakers and the leaders of the many non-profits we worked with.   

            Although the majority of time is spent in Los Angeles, the main outcome of YGC’s impact on the person I am today is that it helped me appreciate and care about the community of Riverside.  Oftentimes, teenagers display feelings of apathy and discontent towards their hometown.  There are many problems they cite about the Riverside and San Bernardino County areas.  However, the people of The Community Foundation and YGC care enough to improve it.  They see the potential and are working towards making it a place that people can be proud to say they are from.  YGC instilled an ever permanent impulse to give back to the place where I grew my roots.  While many young people attend a university and their origins fade into a memory, YGC convinced me to keep philanthropy in Riverside a permanent part of my life.  I still keep myself updated and involved with program development at my high school.  Because of this, I am committed to keeping philanthropy in my hometown a priority. 

Miriam CohnMiriam Cohn


One of the most beneficial extra-curricular activities that I was involved in during high school was YGC, which I participated in for three years. During that time, I was able to participate in the Riverside YGC. I also served as co-chair my senior year for the San Bernardino YGC the year it was started. YGC helped to foster in me a love of community service and a love of working in non-profit organizations, both of which have stayed with me throughout my first two years of college. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved with YGC, and it was an experience that I gained many skills from.

Currently, I am interning with a nonprofit in the Bay Area, California CASA. I have interned with them for a year and have helped organize and plan fundraising events as well as worked with their data entry from those events. I attend UC Berkeley and am involved in multiple things on campus, the largest being Kappa Alpha Theta, with which I do a lot of work to benefit different non-profits. I also participate in SAGE Mentorship, where I mentor fourth graders at an elementary school in Berkeley and am involved in a fellowship with Berkeley Hillel.


Nicholas and Bianca FreemanNicholas and Bianca Freeman

My name is Nicholas Freeman and I am currently a third-year Biological Sciences major at the University of California, Riverside. Participating in the Youth Grantmakers Committee(YGC) was an invaluable experience that has continued to inspire my work in service to the community.

As a pre-med student, I recently graduated from the Clinical Care Volunteer Program at Riverside Community Hospital. Through this internship, I had the privilege of working alongside doctors and nurses in caring for patients. My clinical experience triggered a familiar understanding and appreciation of the difference we can make in the lives of others. YGC provided my first glimpse into real power and importance of philanthropy in building up our communities. As I progress toward a career in medicine, the sprit of altruism that YGC promotes, remains active in my pursuit of a life in service.

Hello!  My name is Bianca Freeman, and I am a junior attending the University of California, Riverside.  I study political science and am avidly interested in contemporary political developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as U.S. relations abroad.  Currently, I am working on my University Honors thesis about peace-building commissions in the Maghreb.  Researching this topic has cultivated my passion for scholarship and aspiration to contribute to this field in such a way that promotes diplomacy and international security.  Following graduation, I plan to enter a Ph.D. program.

Participating on the Youth Grantmakers Committee was such a meaningful experience that continues to inspire my involvements in college and my community.  At UCR, I serve as a Peer Counselor at the Academic Resource Center.  My responsibilities are centered around counseling students who are coping with academic and personal challenges.  This opportunity to work closely with young adults by providing support through campus resources has deepened my commitment to enhancing the lives of young people in ways that build their confidence and personal aspirations.  The privilege to serve on YGC and help fund programs that support student endeavors has encouraged me to participate in work that creates opportunities for young people to succeed and contribute as civically engaged citizens in their communities.

Joseph Ironhawk LittleJoseph Ironhawk Little


Throughout my life, I have always upheld significant importance towards volunteering in my community. Participating in the Youth Grantmakers Program provided an opportunity for me to immerse myself into this important characteristic of my life. The Youth Grantmakers Program’s concentration of philanthropic commitment is a value that I always make an effort to remain connected to. This concentration allowed me to serve my community in a different form of volunteer service. A critical component of the program that continues to resonate with me were the site visits. The site visits were opportunities for me to discover how my involvement in the Youth Grantmakers Program made a difference in the lives of others. I highly treasure this component of the Youth Grantmakers Program because it furthered my understanding of the criticality of philanthropic commitment in any community. My experience of being a member of the Youth Grantmakers Program has made a long-lasting impact on my future aspirations. As a current freshman at Stanford University, I aspire to continue my involvement throughout my community back home and direct my service towards my community on campus because I appreciate opportunities to make a difference in another human being’s life.

Mia NadeauMia Nadeau


My name is Mia Nadeau and I’m a YGC alumna from the Fall 2012-Spring 2015 committees when I was a student at Notre Dame High School. This summer I am taking classes abroad in Scandinavia before starting my fourth year at The George Washington University in D.C. where I study criminal justice and psychology. It may seem like I have come a long way from Riverside, but the first taste of independence I got was from YGC. Before I had joined YGC, I mainly participated in clubs to be close to my friends. This was truly the first extracurricular activity I joined on my own. It was impossible not to become friends with the other YG'ers, with the movie nights and cupcake runs, but more than that I truly respected and admired them. We had different opinions and perspectives, but by the end of the meeting we were always able to find the best solution because we all had the same goal at heart: to better our community.

I am lucky to have found similar environments in college where I can continue to learn from others and develop as a leader, having been elected for the Executive Board for my sorority and chosen to serve on the University Justice Hearing Board for the Office for Student Rights and Responsibilities. The number of parallels I could draw between YGC and college life are too many to count: I am still distributing surveys and compiling data in my psychology class, analyzing reports in my statistics class, and debating with my friends in my criminal law class. I still use my grant-reviewing skills when managing important paperwork at my current internship at a law firm and at my previous roles at the Pretrial Services Agency of D.C. and GW’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

While my community may have changed, my participation in philanthropy and love for volunteer work are as strong as ever. Since joining Phi Sigma Sigma, I regularly participate in the Miracle Network’s Dance Marathon and American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events hosted at my university (in which we are among the top fundraising groups) and I advocate for school and college readiness for low-income students through the sorority’s partnership with the Kids In Need Foundation. Being a college student means I may not always have the money to donate to these causes, but I am always one of the first to volunteer my time, energy, and event-planning skills to help these events succeed!

 I owe a big thank you to YGC and everyone involved in it, because of my participation and growth in this organization I am able to confidently pursue various opportunities that have taken me far and wide. I’m not quite done yet, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more thank you’s from me in the future! 

Sara RodriguezSara Rodriguez


Since leaving Youth Grantmakers in 2016 I have experienced numerous transitions in my life – from high school to university, from computer science to environmental systems and political science, and most drastically from teen to twenty. Yet what I acquired during those monthly meetings for two straight years never left me.  

            After spending my first year in the computer science program at the University of California, San Diego I realized it was not the field for me. No matter how much I love coding, the community within the department was not one I felt comfortable. With that in mind I went off and explored different options. Just as I was about to give up and turn my full attention to astrobiology I took a course on climate change. When I say it changed my life, I mean it. Climate change is a term thrown around often and it’s one I never doubted but I also never really understood before. After much research and studying, I realized the world spends too much of their lives attempting to answer the universe’s greatest mysteries but never the very solvable, very real problems we are facing now. I found something I truly believed in and truly felt passionate about the future again. Now I carry around a usable baggie of metal utensils and a metal straw with me everywhere I go, follow a vegan diet, and use reusable produce bags at the grocery store. I even invested in a biodegradable phone case!  

            During those ten weeks I also remembered an organization we decided to donate to during my two years with Youth Grantmakers, GRID Alternatives. I decided to reach out and see if there was any way I could get more involved in their mission to bring solar power to low income communities around the country. Since then I have participated in their volunteer orientation and have signed up to go on my first install with them over summer break. GRID Alternatives also has collegiate teams and I hope to bring UCSD into the forefront of solar power installation, especially in the low income communities the surround the campus.  

            Youth Grantmakers not only allowed me to learn more about the nonprofit world in my home town but it also gave me the tools to understand nonprofits all around. The individual met and the bonds I formed I continue to hold dearly to this day. High school was a tough time for everyone and having peers to tackle the issues with is an incredible experience. Most importantly, for me that is, is the fact that Youth Grantmakers gave me my first taste of what it is like to be an active member of my community and how direct action is not the only way to fight the perceived injustices within that community.

Kathleen SawaKathleen Sawa


Youth Grantmakers made a lasting impact on my life and has helped shape my understanding of how crucial foundations and grantmaking are to nonprofits in communities. That experience strengthened my already present desire to give back and provided me with an outlet to do so. It inspired me to examine further opportunities to assist those in need, and solidified my future plans.

After completing the program, I went on to get my Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from UC Riverside with the intention to utilize my degree in order to give back to those in need through policy. The grantmaking process provided me with the insight and experience necessary to intern for a nonprofit in Washington D.C. that worked with grants at a federal level. Upon my graduation, I was offered a position as an Academic Internship Coordinator at UC Riverside, which allows me to network with national, state-wide, and local organizations to facilitate student internships.

This experience fortunately led me back to The Community Foundation when a space on the board of directors was created for a Youth Grantmakers alum. It has been wonderful to re-enter into this field in my adult life to truly witness, and have the opportunity to contribute, to the positive impact The Community Foundation is making on Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

As I observe the great stride made by the Youth Grantmakers Program, I am filled with pride that I was provided with the opportunity to graduate from the inaugural class. Exposing the younger generation to the process of grantmaking and giving back to their community is crucial in the development of future leaders and it is and honor that such a program exists in our community. 

Brittney SuttonBrittney Sutton


(2009 – 2010 participation in program)

Four years ago, I was an eager high school student looking to be involved with the community and gain any kind of leadership experience. Never would I have imagined the long-term value and skills I could gain from being involved in The Youth Grant-makers Committee-- a program that cares about fostering the ability of its members and the well being of the community. As my undergraduate career comes to an end, I reflect on my involvement in YGC during high school and how it not only encouraged me, but also enhanced the decisions I have made thus far.

Being a member of YGC while in high school exposed me to the multi-dimensional components of the non-profit sector and the value of philanthropy. In particular, the site-visiting aspect to YGC really followed me throughout my volunteering and job experiences in college. As a student of Political Science, YGC impacted my decision to become involved with a non-profit that values and works for a grassroots organization, which also focuses on the direct needs of the community. Gaining hindsight into the formal practices of grant writing furthered my ability to critically think and evaluate the impact programs have on the needs of a community. As an alumna, it is exciting to see how Youth Grant-makers is a growing program that continues to serve as a source of knowledge for youth and an investment in the well being of our generation. 

Henry WiddcombeHenry Widdcombe


(2014 - 2016 participation in program)

My participation in the Youth Grantmakers Program has proven to be one of value and lifelong impact.  I initially started in the Riverside program and when I was told of the expansion of the program to San Bernardino I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural class that started back in 2014.  It was great to see the representation of the various high schools within the San Bernardino Unified School District coming together for one purpose, to do something great.  During my last year in the program I served as co-chair along with my Aquinas High School alumni Miriam Cohn. 

I’m in my junior year at Gonzaga University and presently back packing through Spain – Camino de Santiago (hence the photo you see).  This pilgrimage has been an experience of a lifetime. 

While at Gonzaga I’ve continued to work in philanthropy with my university’s advancement department as a student caller for our telefund program.  So I raise funds from alumni, family, and friends of the university, mostly to support scholarship programs but also to keep them involved with the Gonzaga community.

Amy XuAmy Xu


Will this experience challenge my current way of thinking? Will it contribute to my growth or help me develop skills I have not yet explored? These are two questions that I ask myself before I pursue any novel endeavor, whether it be an international internship or simply a new restaurant down the block. I try to focus my life on positive change to avoid stagnancy. My last two years of high school, YGC provided such a change. I had no previous experience with finances or working within the nonprofit sector. YGC gave me the opportunity to give back to my community in a way so direct and impactful that I did not expect when joining the program. It allowed me to directly contribute to the causes I most valued while developing grant- and budget-making skills that – looking back now - have proved beneficial in my endeavors since leaving high school.

            I am currently the financial officer for my college cheerleading team and assistant recruitment chair for my sorority, both positions that have required the management of large budgets and applications for funding. I have continued my philanthropic work through organizing an NFL-affiliated cheerleading clinic for individuals with Down syndrome and leading a weekly group dedicated to aiding the homeless in the Bay Area, along with volunteering at the local blood bank and hospital. Additionally, I hold various leadership roles on campus that as a whole, have utilized the communication and collaborative skills I learned in YGC to organize events and manage logistics. I will graduate in the spring of 2018 with honors from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology with a concentration in Sports Performance and Biomechanics. Following a gap year, during which I intend to pursue health-focused nonprofit work abroad, I will attend medical school with the aim of becoming an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine.

Altogether, I am thankful for YGC not only for helping me develop essential life skills but also for introducing me to a passion for nonprofit work and encouraging me to act on my desires to contribute to community well-being. It is an inspiring program that truly allows high school students to have a voice and explore a novel facet of themselves.
We encourage anyone interested in learning more about how they can volunteer, strengthen and grow our Youth Grantmakers program to contact the Programs Department at 951.241.7777.