Familiar Tools Feed Renewed Enthusiasm for JOY

Jeff Kozaka at South Portland presentations-Mahoney

JMG Specialist Jeff Kozaka at left, and So. Portland’s Mahoney Middle School students attend a morning of presentations from nonprofits seeking JOY funding. Using school technology to revive the philanthropy research process, Mahoney improved both nonprofit and student enthusiasm.

The five-year milestone in the JOY program provided an opportunity for South Portland’s Mahoney Middle School Specialist, Jeff Kozaka, to review and align the philanthropy curriculum with other technology skills and goals being taught.  “I decided to upgrade the JOY curriculum to better incorporate more of the technology and tools students were using for research, and the social media that they use in all of their non-school time!” says Jeff.

The Mahoney students used their school-issued i pads to do a scavenger hunt on the JOY site that eventually led them to the page with all previous grantees listed for their review which truly broadened their understanding of the program’s reach. They took online surveys to assess where their philanthropic interests lie, and how they match with those of well-known celebrities.  The students then created fake Facebook pages for a chosen celebrity that focused on their interests and presented to the class.  The survey results were compiled so that the students could examine local nonprofits in their areas of interest. Each student then created yet another fake Facebook page for a specific organization to capture the mission and programs to compete for the JOY funding. Jeff filmed each student presenting his/her profile to the class and each class viewed each presentation.

Crafting professional emails and rfp solicitations also figured heavily into the JOY work and the fine tuning paid off. Within hours of sending out the rfp’s, students received replies from interested nonprofits and could respond to questions and coordinate volunteer opportunities.  Eventually, of the 11 organizations that received rfp’s, ten applied for a grant.

Re-vamping the JOY program with more familiar technology tools led to improved enthusiasm among the nonprofits and also helped refresh student investment into their philanthropy work.



A Sparkling Clean Solution

Now a new, commercial-grade dishwasher will take care of those stacks of dishes, allowing Warsaw Middle School students more time to cook, serve and socialize with the diners at the Welcome Table in Pittsfield.

It didn’t take long for the students of Warsaw Middle School to understand that the more time they spent doing dishes at The Welcome Table in Pittsfield, the less time there was for socializing with the diners at the soup kitchen.  During the 2012-2013 school year, students donated $500 of their JOY grant funds to the Welcome Table to help purchase a large, commercial-grade dishwasher to aid in speedier and more sanitized clean up following meal service.

The Welcome Table serves an average of fifty people every Friday. With the new dishwasher, all community volunteers can spend more time serving and chatting with the diners, and less time up to their elbows at the sink.

Because they had such a positive first experience, the Warsaw JMG students decided to volunteer to prepare lunch again the following year, and enjoyed making coffee and learning how to cook vegetables.

And clean up?  Quick, thorough and easy!

If Dreams Came True We Wouldn’t Need Grants

Dream Factory at South Portland

“Fairy Godmothers” and a student representative from the Dream Factory pitch South Portland students for a JOY grant

With tiaras on their heads and wands in hand, the volunteer Fairy Godmothers of the Dream Factory made a compelling case to the assembled JMG classes of South Portland High School and Memorial and Mahoney Middle Schools about why they should be awarded a JOY grant. The Dream Factory grants “happiness, inspiration and hope” to critically and chronically ill children and their families and told the audience of about 100 students that they were currently working with a South Portland family to make a dream come true.

The 100 or so JMG students who gathered at South Portland High School’s new lecture hall have $4000 in grants to award this spring and asked six organizations to pitch their causes for funding. Other requests came for furniture for play and therapy at the Center for Grieving Children; scholarships for classes through Kids First, serving children of divorcing parents; scholarships for participation at The Telling Room, guiding students, particularly those from war-torn countries in writing their powerful stories; summer job stipends for teens learning valuable employment skills at the Boys and Girls Club; and supporting Make-A-Wish Foundation for children with life-threatening medical conditions.  Each organization’s representative made a compelling case for a grant.

JOY South Portland High School 2014

Students from South Portland High School and Memorial and Mahoney Middle Schools assemble to hear pitches from six area nonprofits for JOY grants.

The brief presentations and videos will help the JMG students determine how to award their grants.  After seeing the pitches and asking questions, each school will discuss and determine their preferences for funding.  Making good grants is tough work – with or without a magic wand!

Doing Good by Dozer

Houlton JOY visit

Houlton High School JMG students welcome Dozer (front middle in yellow coat) and the Humane Society with pet food, cleaning supplies and kitty litter. The Humane Society applied for a JOY grant.

Dozer is a special dog that tours for the Houlton Humane Society. Given up by a family who could no longer afford his veterinary care, Dozer, who was twice hit by cars and survived gangrene, now visits schools and clubs to help animal shelter staff spread the word about their work to rescue and place abandoned pets.

The shelter applied for a JOY grant through Houlton High School and Dee Butler’s JMG students welcomed Dozer and Heather, the shelter director ,with smiles, pet food, cleaning supplies and kitty litter.  “I have great kids!” says Dee.

The shelter provides opportunities for individual students to learn about animal care. Walking dogs and socializing cats can be a therapeutic experience for many young people.  As they consider where to award their JOY grant this year, Dee’s students have been invited to volunteer at the Humane Society; Dee hopes to arrange monthly visits to help out.  Dozer is a convincing recruiter!

Pitching for Perfection

Twelve nonprofits.  Six grants.  150 JMG students with the voting power to determine which of the dozen nonprofits would receive a Jumpstart Our Youth grant of $1000. Let the pitching begin!

As they have for the past two years, the JMG students at Waterville and Winslow junior high and high schools and Messalonskee high school, have pooled together their JOY funding and asked their nonprofit applicants to present to the combined group. However, unlike previous years where every nonprofit that presented received funding, this year only half the organizations will receive a grant.

At the Messalonskee High School auditorium in March, area nonprofits serving teens, homeless families, the uninsured, domestic violence survivors, and children with disabilities, and that provide disaster relief, community art and behavioral health services, each presented a ten minute overview of their missions, solutions and how they would use the JOY grant to make a difference.

Students demonstrated their interest in nonprofit efficiency by raising questions, including what percentage of the grant would go directly to programs and how much to administrative costs.

Following the twelve pitches, the students ranked their choices to receive grants which will be announced later this spring.  Given the format, all of the nonprofits will benefit in some way.  Even if an organization is not selected for funding, each had a captive audience to learn more about its mission, potentially fostering future volunteers and donors.

Following twelve compelling nonprofit pitches for grant funding, students from Messalonskee, Waterville and Winslow junior and senior high schools gathered at Messalonskee High School to rank their favorites to receive grants.

Messalonskee, philanthropy, Jumpstart our Youth

JMG students from six programs gathered at Messalonskee High School in March 2014 to hear nonprofits pitch for grant money. Six of twelve presenters will receive grants.

“JOY” Throughout the Year

Students with experience in Jumpstart Our Youth feel empowered to find solutions to everyday needs, even outside the structured annual grant process. At Spruce Mountain High School, JMG Specialist Barbara Jewett notes that students who have had more experience with the JOY program are seeing more deliberate connections between what they have learned about the potential for philanthropy and volunteering, and their ability to make a difference.

This year, even before the JOY program kicked off, Spruce Mountain JMG students spearheaded a fundraising effort to assist a fellow student whose family had lost their home to a fire and raised $500 from school events. They also find ways to stay connected with their very first JOY grantee, the Tri-Town Ministerial Food Cupboard. They volunteer regularly, and raise money outside the grant process. This year they had fun with “Hat Day”; all students could wear a hat in school for $1, which was donated to the food cupboard.

JMG also welcomed “To Write on Her Arm”, a national student education and referral service seeking to raise awareness about mental and behavioral health issues. The nonprofit works with schools to implement programs that fit in with a school’s culture. Recognizing that they could connect the organization’s powerful mission with an often unspoken need among peers, the JMG students instantly understood the expertise and commitment of the nonprofit and its benefit to teens.

Specialist Barbara Jewett observes, “Students have a grasp on the fact that they can find creative solutions to meet needs in the community. The JOY program provides a wonderful foundation to teach them to make connections – which they now do throughout the year and not just when we have the formal process.”