Amanda Allen, Idyllwild Nature Center park interpreter, accepts a check from the Idyllwild Youth Grantmakers to help fund the hiring of interns who will help design and implement a collaborative Junior Naturalist program. The awards were given at Idyllwild School last week. Photo by Marshall Smith

The Idyllwild Youth Grantmakers held its fifth-annual grant award ceremony on Thursday, March 16, in the Idyllwild School cafeteria. Sixteen Idyllwild Middle School students awarded a total of $4,000 in grants to seven local nonprofit grant applicants.

This is the fifth year that a group of Idyllwild Middle School students made philanthropic decisions that benefited community nonprofits whose missions and goals contribute to young people on the Hill.

Students awarded grants to Soroptimist International of Idyllwild, Idyllwild School Outdoor Education Booster Club, Friends of the San Jacinto Mountain County Parks, Idyllwild School PTA smARTS program, Idyllwild HELP Center, Idyllwild School (musical) and Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild.

The IYG program is funded and directed by the Idyllwild Community Fund, with support from the Community Foundation of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. In eight after-school sessions, IYG volunteers learn philanthropy, the value of giving to others, how to review grant applications and make awards, and civic responsibility.

This year’s 16 Idyllwild Youth Grantmakers pose at the conclusion of their grant presentation ceremony. This is the fifth year the program has taught Idyllwild Middle School student volunteers about philanthropy and the value of giving back to their community. The program is directed and funded by the Idyllwild Community Fund with support from the Community Foundation of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Photo by Marshall Smith

ICF board member and retired Idyllwild School teacher Holly Guntermann directs the program for the ICF, with support and coordination by Idyllwild School teachers George Companiott and Donna Mercer.

Originally a pilot program funded and directed by the Community Foundation, ICF took over overall responsibility for continuing the program beginning in year four, 2015. The Community Foundation’s pilot program was the first, in 2012, for Middle School students. All of the other CF Youth Grantmaker programs are for high school students.

IYG students perform the same site visits and grant analyses that the ICF board does. Their decisions are made in open discussion with their peer members and are entirely their own. Review sessions are spirited and worked through collegially in grant review sessions, with support from ICF board members Jayne Davis, Callie Wight, Lenore Sazer, Larrynn Carver and ICF President Shannon Ng.

Guntermann directs the teaching sessions leading up to grant reviews and determinations. Said Guntermann of this year’s cohort of IYG volunteers, “This was an amazing group of students who took the task of learning what the needs of Idyllwild youth are very seriously. They took that knowledge and then applied it to the grant applications as they were evaluating them.”

What is remarkable, since Guntermann began directing the program, is the number of students who stay in the program for multiple years. The commitment of time — eight two-hour, after-school sessions, as well as community service requirements — is not insignificant, especially as the IYG teaching segments come after a full school day.

Completing three years of IYG service were eighth-graders Sophie Carver, Leslie Pimentel, Madison Collis and Sophia Tilley. Completing two years were seventh-graders Rene Hernandez, Matilda Terry and An Lin Hunt Babcock, and eighth-grader Amarilli Severa. One-year participants included sixth-graders Victoria Lovett, Geneva Dagnall, Bethany Holland, Alyssa Holland and Octavia Severa. Eighth-graders Litzy Pimentel and Jessica Ruelas also served for one year.

For the first time in five years, there were more grant applicants than in previous years and grant funding requests totaling more than $2,000 above what students could fund.

At the awards ceremony, Guntermann shared that she learned something from a process the students devised that could be used in ICF grant deliberations. “The students had $4,000 to give in grants but we had over $6,000 in requests,” she noted.

“The eighth graders came up with the idea to look at the score that the grant received out of the possible score [based on specific criteria] and figured out what percentage that was. They then figured out using that percentage to determine what the applicant might receive. That gave them a place to start when they discussed the amounts to award. The discussions were done in a very collaborative and cohesive manner.”

ARF received for $400 to fund day camps for students at the Nature Center during spring break to learn how to take care of pets.

Friends of the San Jacinto Mountain County Parks received $530 to hire interns who will help design and implement a collaborative Junior Naturalist program.

The HELP Center received $580 to help provide scholarships for registration for youth sports and equipment to low-income kids.

Idyllwild School received $430 to help fund the production of a school musical, “Aladdin.”

The Idyllwild School Outdoor Education Booster Club received $790 to provide scholarships to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students who need assistance so they can attend the Joshua Tree, CIMI or Astro Camp trips.

Idyllwild School PTA and smARTs program received $520 to fund a field trip to a regional art museum or performing arts center.

Soroptimist International of Idyllwild received $750 to purchase basic needs and hygiene items for youth that can’t be purchased with federal/state financial aid programs.