Marymount School Launches Innovative Program
Students at Marymount School, an all-girls high school in the Upper East Side, proved that philanthropy is a lesson best learned through research, creativity and teamwork.
Stephen P. Hanson, founder and president of B.R. Guest Restaurants, which includes eateries such as Dos Caminos and the Atlantic Grill, donated $300,000 to fund the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative program at Marymount School. YPI is a Canada-based program that introduces 9th- and 10th-graders to social issues and how charities are addressing them through a semester-long contest. Hanson has two daughters who are students at Marymount.
“One of the parents [Hanson] came to us one day and said he learned about a program that would be a great way to teach kids about philanthropy,” said Dr. Stefan Cornelis, a history teacher and co-coordinator of the YPI program. “What he suggested complimented perfectly what we try to teach our students about social justice and charitable giving.”
To participate in the contest, students work in teams of four to identify a social issue affecting New York City, such as teen homelessness or domestic violence, determine its root causes and think of possible solutions. The students then select one charity that addresses that social issue and learn about the charity’s work, vision and mission.
The research process involves on-site visits, interviews with the organization’s employees and the people they serve, as well as reviewing financial records online to learn how the organization operates with regard to finances, ethics, and accountability. The students present their findings in a funding request to a judging panel, and the team who makes the most convincing case for why donors should support their cause receives $5,000 for the charity.
The judges included Patricia Harris, the first deputy mayor of New York City, and Serafin Mariel, the former CEO of New York National Bank. Twelve groups made funding requests. The social issues the students researched included human trafficking, teen pregnancy, homeless LGBTQ youths and other issues.
Hanson announced the judges’ decision: Inwood House, a teen pregnancy center, was the recipient of the $5,000 check. The four runners-up were each awarded $500 to donate to their charities.
In addition to this sum, a multiplier effect took hold when the global philanthropy unit of JPMorgan learned of the projects and offered an additional $20,000 toward the Ali Forney Center, the focus of one Marymount group, whose mission is to support LGBTQ homeless youth.
The students also made presentations to the philanthropy unit of Bank of New York Mellon to be considered for additional funding. The George Link Foundation (managed by BNY Mellon) made their final determinations before their fiscal year end, announcing that they had selected three of the organizations identified by Marymount School students: The Go Project, Children of Bellevue, and Nazareth Housing. Each of these charities will receive a $25,000 grant this year. The managing director of BNY Mellon, Joseph M. Samulski, remarked that the presentations “prepared by the girls were directly instrumental in assisting the Link Board in selecting them to receive a grant for this year.”
“We’re very proud of our students,” said Headmistress Concepcion Alvar. “They not only learned about the importance of philanthropy, they also learned valuable skills in public speaking, research, and how to make a convincing presentation. These are skills that will give them great advantages as they continue to move forward.”
Working closely with charity groups gave many of the girls a new perspective of the issues they researched, said one student.
“This project helped me put a face to the issue of homelessness,” said a student whose team visited the Ali Forney Center. “It’s not just something you would read about in class.” #