ExCollege class hosts Basic Needs Drive for homeless youth

JumboDreams, a philanthropic group created by the fall 2014 Experimental College class “EXP 46: Philanthropy, Nonprofits, and Community,” raised over $1,250 from its Basic Needs Drive which took place from Nov. 10 to Nov. 21 during November’s National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. 

Funds raised from the drive will benefit the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts’ Youth on Fire program and Bridge Over Troubled Waters, organizations dedicated to helping local homeless youth, according to seniors Anneliese Luck and Julia McDaniel and first-year Gabriela Bonfiglio, all of whom spearheaded the community service project for the class.

Nancy Lippe, the program director of Musketaquid Arts & Environment at The Umbrella Community Arts Center, said that the three students took the drive to a whole new level and helped the class to exceed the goals they had established for themselves.

“All of our expectations were exceeded by not only the generosity of our donors but also by the interest that [Tufts] students had in the issue,” McDaniel said.

Luck explained that the project consisted of components beyond raising money.

“We worked with local homeless youth at Bridge Over Troubled Waters to create a mural, which served as a visual awareness campaign for the kids of the organization,” Luck said. “Tufts students were able to show their support for the youth by putting their handprint or signing their name on a poster, which we then returned to the organization, along with all the goods that we raised.”

JumboDreams raised both money and goods, according to Luck. The items collected ranged from hygiene products to clothing, and a comprehensive list of what could potentially be donated was available to view on the campaign’s Facebook event page, McDaniel explained.

“We focused on hygiene products,” she said. “We got a lot of deodorant and things like that, [and] also warm socks and hand warmers. But given that we were catering towards college students that don’t have the time to donate items, we focused more on receiving online donations [through GoFundMe] so that we could go buy these items in bulk.”

McDaniel noted that she has seen some interest in keeping the project going.

“Some students on campus have shown interest in turning [JumboDreams] into a long-term project, but as far as people in the class are concerned, this is a short term project that will benefit the Tufts community and the organizations,” she said.

Luck added that she enjoyed working with her classmates and receiving support from the Tufts student community.

“I think [the class was] brought together by a communal interest in giving back, and we’ve all bonded over the course of this semester’s journey and our work together,” she said. “I’d love to continue to work together with the group in the future.”

Lippe explained that the class is unique in that students work as a foundation board to award $25,000 — a donation from Trustee Emeritus Nathan Gantcher — to local nonprofit organizations.

The class made their final decision last night to award varying amounts of the grant to the Phillips Brooks House Association Youth Housing Initiative, Casa Myrna, Rediscovery’s YouthHarbors, the Somerville Homeless Coalition, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Youth on Fire, according to Lippe, who added that the students chose from 11 potential grant applications.

“Every semester the students amaze me with their insight, motivation, creativity and commitment to making the world a better place,” she said.

According to McDaniel, the class leaned heavily toward issues of education, poverty, homelessness and youth, and from there narrowed down the focus of their charitable efforts to homeless youth.

“We started with talking about what we valued as a class, what issues we were passionate about, and the values we had for organizations,” McDaniel said.

“The idea of being on a student board with the ability to actually give real funding to local nonprofits seemed like an incredible hands-on way to learn about the sector and get involved in the community,” Luck said.

Lippe, who has now taught the class for four semesters, has a straightforward goal for the class: She wants students to learn that everyone can be a philanthropist. Hopefully, this effort will spark a desire to make the practice of philanthropy, at some level, a lifelong passion, she said.

“In the class, students learn about the broad spectrum of philanthropic activity, nonprofit best practices and project management and methods of assessment,” she said. “This process of functioning as a foundation board involves writing a mission statement, crafting a request for proposals and developing a rubric for scoring grant applications … They learn a lot about group decision making, leadership and the importance of goals and metrics.”

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