I have been a part of the JUF program “Voices” for three years now, and joining was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Voices is a Chicago Teen Foundation where high school students participate in a year-long program, learning the ins and outs of grant making through a Jewish lens and making real allocations to causes participants care about.
“Voices 101” is for first-year participants and they have $25,000 to donate to non-profits by the end of the year. Participants break up into committees based upon their non-profit interests and perform community needs research. Throughout the year, participants are taught about grants, budget analysis and site-visits and at the end, the money is donated. It sounds relatively simple but it isn't. Not only does it teach teens about philanthropic concepts, but also about what they value as people. “Voices” teaches teens to make tough real-world decisions. Quality or quantity? After-School programming or basic needs? Education or healthcare?
“Voices Alumni” is for students who have completed the first year and it tackles the same issues, with already having the prior philanthropic knowledge. The difference: instead of starting with $25,000, we start with $0. We are responsible for raising the money that our foundation will give out in the form of grants. We create fundraising events such as dinners, art-fairs and letter writing campaigns. Fundraising has taught me a lot about realistic goal-setting, which is an important skill to have in life. With each “Voices” meeting, I continue to learn and grow as a Jewish Philanthropist. And I say Jewish Philanthropist, because Jewish values are embedded in the program. We study Maimonides’ Ladder of Giving and apply our Jewish values to our process.
“Voices” is also a great way to meet other Jewish teens from around the Chicagoland area who also want to make a difference. That’s also what’s really neat about “Voices”, it’s a great way to engage in Tikkun Olam, making the world a better place. I know that even after I’m done with “Voices” I will continue to be an active Jewish Philanthropist and apply what I have learned from “Voices”.
-Carly Colen, 11th grade