Giving back

TUPELO – A year’s worth of work literally paid off for the Northeast Mississippi Youth Foundation on Sunday.
The youth-directed foundation, made up of 11th- and 12th-graders from Northeast Mississippi, presented more than $2,100 in grants it raised over the last year to organizations and programs serving youth and children.
“We see where there’s a need,” said the foundation’s chair, Cooper Kennard, “and we find a way to suit that need.”
Sunday’s grant presentations were the final chapter in a year full of hard work, said Kennard, a senior at Starkville High School.
After determining a goal amount of their endowment fund, the students begin fundraising and soliciting donations.
Five percent of the money raised for the endowment fund can be awarded as grants to community programs and organizations, Kennard said.
As the money is being raised, the group learns about philanthropy from those who have benefited from the NEMYF in years past.
“We have people who received grants in the past come and speak to us,” Kennard said. “They tell us about how they’re using thegrants to help their community.”
Students from each county then choose a program or organization in their community to receive a grant from the NEMYF. They present their ideas to the entire foundation, which then decides the organizations that get the grants.
“We can either give a lot of grants for a little money, or give a few grants for a lot of money,” Kennard said.
Because on the recession, the group decided to give grants to organizations who use 100 percent of their donations to help others.
Kennard said it’s the grant presentations that are the most rewarding part of being a member of the NEMYF.
“I was assistant chair last year, and I’ve seen the change that this foundation has really done for the communities,” he said. “We all did it, and we all made that journey together and we all got here together,” he said.
Chickasaw County students Nori Moore, Amber Jenkins and Jordan Byrne donated $250 to the Chickasaw County Soccer Association.
Carol Byrne with the Chickasaw County Soccer Association thanked the NEMYF for the grant at the Sunday presentation.
“You will be able to help 10 children play soccer,” she said. “We will make sure this goes to families with multiple children.”
Jordan Byrne, a senior, said she, Jenkins and Moore considered many Chickasaw County organizations before deciding on the soccer program.
“We wanted to do something different,” Byrne said.
The students said that no school in Chickasaw County has a soccer program, but a student from their county earned a soccer scholarship to college through the Chickasaw County Soccer Association.
With the financial crisis hurting students, Jenkins, Moore and Byrne said they hoped the soccer association could help a student get an education.
Itawamba County students Amanda Bryant and Casey Smith donated $500 to the United Methodist Food Pantry-West.
Lee County students Mary Susan Anderson, Raven Bradley, Kyle Young and Caitlin Lesley donated $400 to El Centro.
El Centro helps Hispanics integrate into the local community by providing services such as English classes, after school programs and worshops.
Lafayette County students Margot Hewitt, Hardy McGonagill and Kyle Sherman donated $300 to the North Mississippi Regional Center.
The center serves those with intellectual and related developmental disabilities in the North Mississippi area.
Pontotoc County students Paul Furr, Zachary Patterson and Whitney Ray donated $300 to the Pontotoc County Bible Teachers’ Fund.
The Union County Good Samaritan Food Pantry was given $500 by Union County students Ashley Alexander, Drew Davis and Emily Carol Alef.
The NEMYF was established by the CREATE foundation in 2001 and has given out roughly $13,500 in grants to communities.
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com.

Sheena Barnett/Daily Journal