Students present grants to local organizations

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

COVINGTON -- Some might think they are too young to care about or be aware of monetary woes, but middle school students at the Montessori School of Covington know they need to help as much as they can in today's economy.

For the second consecutive year, the middle school students at MSC worked in conjunction with the Newton Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta to award $1,000 to nonprofit organizations in Newton County as part of a student grant-making activity.

"At The Community Foundation, we work with this next generation of philanthropists through activities ... and see the benefits of engaging young people in philanthropy and the work of nonprofits," said Erin Drury, a philanthropic advisor for the foundation. "It helps youth to better understand what's going on in their community and how they can make a difference through giving, whether it's volunteerism or financially."

The students didn't take the decision lightly.

Earlier this school year, the school's seven seventh-graders held a Scholastic Book Fair to raise $500, which the foundation matched. Afterward, they researched local nonprofit organizations and selected four to review more in detail -- Project ReNeWal, which offers shelter and assistance to victims of domestic violence in Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties; the Humane Society of Newton County, which strives to alleviate suffering and prevent cruelty to animals and promotes spaying and neutering of cats and dogs; FaithWorks, which provides money to low-income residents of Newton County for rent and pays utility bills; and Adopt-A-Horse, which rehabilitates abused horses and offers riding opportunities for victims of childhood sexual abuse.

"It's wonderful because it puts them in touch with the community and with issues they weren't even aware of before," said their teacher Sara Vinson. "Even the organizations they didn't choose, they learned so much from them about their hard times."

The students developed questions for the organizations and set up interviews and site visits with the organizations' directors to analyze the needs and what the grants would fund.

"After a long class discussion, we selected two nonprofits to receive the grants," student Julia Marshall said.

The group presented Project ReNeWal and the Humane Society of Newton County with grants for $500 each.

"We appreciate all you do to make the community a better place," said student Claire Vinson at a special grant reception last Friday.

Vickie Stevenson, executive director of Project ReNeWal, said her organization plans to purchase a projection system that staff will use for community outreach programs.

"I'm speechless pretty much," she said. "You don't know how priceless this is at this point in time. ... We are so impressed with you all, too. ... We know you're helping families in crisis."

Betty Bellairs, chair of the Humane Society of Newton County, said her organization will apply the funds toward its spay/neuter program.

"This could not come at a better time," she said. "All charities are suffering. This will be a great boom for us."

The middle schoolers at MSC also participate in other community service projects throughout the year as part of the school's curriculum, including litter pickup with Rivers Alive, food bank services, volunteering at the library and working with Special Olympics. Last year's grant-making project awarded grants to Prevent Child Abuse Newton and the FFA Summer Camp.