We call them YACers ... Youth Advisory Committee members. They attend schools throughout Genesee County, are 14 to 18 years old, and see the problems that youth face. Meeting monthly during the school year, they mix their perspectives and evaluate grant proposals effectively.
Riley Simmington, is a past chair of the Countywide Youth Advisory Committee. With an endowment of over $1.8 million, members advise grants such as $1,000 to the Old Newsboys of Flint Christmas Box Program, to $7,000 to the Crim Fitness Foundation's Summer Running Club program.
"Since beginning YAC in eighth grade, I've gained many perspectives into the giving of time, talent, and treasure; what we call philanthropy," Simmington said. "YAC has taught me that there are many aspects of service, and that all are necessary in this overall goal to make our community a better place. I've learned that wherever I go, I always want to be serving my community, and that there will always be a way to do so."
Diversity in thoughts and ideas of each YAC member is important, he says. "When youth release their ideas, everyone gains more perspective. I began to take and leave behind so much more from the opportunity."
Josh Bryant, past YAC member, also served on the Countywide YAC. With Simmington, the duo are the longest serving YACers on the Countywide Committee.
"Not every grant decision is straight forward, and some require more time," said Bryant. "I learned how to correctly review grant proposals and understand how the funds will be used. My experience in YAC has given me more chances to give back and make our community a better place for youth."
YACs got their start in the 1990s when the W.K. Kellogg Foundation issued a youth challenge grant to community foundations. Four youth endowments were established at that time-Countywide, Clio, Grand Blanc and Fenton/Linden. Since the first YAC was established in 1992, members have awarded more than $1 million for a variety of programs that benefit area young people.
"Serving the community through YAC has been extremely fulfilling in my life," adds Simmington. "The feeling I get, knowing I had a part in making such an impact in our area, is one that I'm so grateful for!"
Membership on the Youth Advisory Committees is open to any Genesee County-area student willing to commit to volunteer. For more information, contact Alexandria Dawson, Development and Program Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-767-8270.