“Community is being close to the people around you. To me, community isn’t a place, it’s a feeling,”
- Rebecca Leonard
13-year-old Rebecca Leonard submitted an essay for the Northern New York Community Foundation Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge where she highlighted the Watertown Urban Mission and its many services including their food program. Her description of community was compelling to the review committee, so much so, that she was selected as one of the 20 winners from a pool of 87 submissions, garnering a $500 donation to the Watertown Urban Mission.
Rebecca and I recently went to the Watertown Urban Mission to meet with staff and tour the facility, after which she presented the $500 gift, made possible by the Community Foundation’s Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge, in partnership with Community Bank, N.A. The 2018 Challenge asked students from Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties to explain in an essay what community means to them and to choose an organization that embodies their definition of community.
This is a moment that would make any parent proud. Mix into the equation that one of the parents is a grant professional and the owner of a national grant consulting firm and this is a monumental event. However, while she knows and understands the work of a grant professional as she has grown up surrounded by the stories of the impact grants make in a community, her strong writing skills are not directing her toward the grant profession. Rather, she has her eyes set on a career as an environmental engineer working to protect the oceans and in particular, sea turtles. Her writing skills will certainly be an asset when paired with her passion for all things STEM-related. I am not disappointed though as I imagine one day the phone will ring (or the text will come in) that tells me she is working on a grant to help support a project or organization she is working with and I will have the opportunity to see her create more impact within her community using her strong writing skills.
While the path to a grant professional may not be one that many middle school students see themselves on, their exposure to philanthropy and engagement in community giving like the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge is a wonderful opportunity to show them that #grantswork and to help prepare them for their potential interaction with grant funding as their career unfolds.
I am so proud of Rebecca and her peers that participated in the Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge that the DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services team has agreed that we will provide an additional $500 to Watertown Urban Mission for being such an important part of creating the feeling of community in the North Country.