Why should school students learn about philanthropy?

There is huge value in learning about the importance of helping and caring for others, says Matthew Crammond

Matthew Crammond

Why should school students learn about philanthropy?

As a result of successive Covid lockdowns across Scotland, our reliance on our local communities has increased over the last year. We have witnessed first-hand the benefits of people coming together for the collective cause. Although we have been in isolation, being there for one another has never been so important.

As our lives slowly start to return to something resembling normality, I believe it is important the human impact we can make when completing philanthropic work. Teaching students about philanthropy within schools means communities can instil values of service that will add positive value to people around us.

Schools have a great historic record of raising funds for charities within their local communities. However, as we leave these unprecedented times, a deep community connection can be made through pupil’s education with a philanthropic approach.

Benefits to pupils

Educating students in philanthropy will undoubtedly prepare them for the real world and give them important exposure to the struggles many people go through. Our lessons on philanthropy aim to enable students to realise the difference each of us can make. Students compassionately explore the challenges facing their community and are tasked to put their beliefs into action through the programme.

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Also, in dealing with difficult subjects, students are challenged to operate outside of their comfort zone. This results in them developing their interpersonal skills as they are invited to cooperate, mediate, listen and organise objectively.

When participating in philanthropic programme’s such as the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), students will usually ask in disbelief if the £3,000 grant they are given – to be redirected to a worthy cause – is real. The cash grant challenges their imaginations, drives student participation and classroom competitiveness. Students are rooted in the knowledge that only one charity will receive the winning grant, but more importantly, by the end of the project students find worth in being an advocate for their charity. The relationships made between these charities and students often can outlast the projects themselves, with many students regularly volunteering at the charities that inspired them.

Students commonly share their lived experiences of charities or social issues throughout the programme. Often, the opportunity to represent an issue or charity close to their hearts can act as a cathartic experience. This contributes to the education within this project and as a teacher, I learn more about my students from each grant presentation.

Youth Philanthropy Initiative

In 2008, the YPI was introduced across Scotland to encourage young people to complete work just like this.

Our school, Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr, has participated in the initiative since 2018 as part of our religious education programme. The community at Queen Margaret Academy has a strong belief in the importance of helping and caring for others.

Each school on the YPI programme is responsible for directing the grant of £3,000 to a local charity championed by its pupils through a unique teamwork, research, and competition programme.

The programme focuses on understanding social issues and the community, exploring the third sector, charity selection and culminates in presentation development and a showcase. Showcases can be anything from interpretive dance, poems written by the groups, or in the form of self-penned songs.

Student mentoring  

The YPI programme has several main sponsors including Strathaven-headquartered rail contractor QTS Group, which has, for the past four years, sponsored the initiative across 20 schools in Ayrshire. It works closely with the schools providing mentoring and coaching individual groups before their final presentations.

Having external coaches increases students’ confidence in their work, fostering positive relationships and developing students' social skills. It is refreshing for young people to see adults take a genuine interest and place value on their views and opinions, and helps establish a constructive link to the world of work.

Beyond the classroom

There is always great enthusiasm from young people to help those in need, and YPI harnesses that passion while teaching a plethora of skills in the process. The programme also encourages young people to take ownership and become leaders of their own learning experiences.

Above all, YPI provides a charity in your community with real monetary support while encouraging students to develop empathy for the work of local charities. This shows thew value of a focus on philanthropy: it has a real and lasting impact on all involved.

Matthew Crammond is principal teacher of religious education at Queen Margaret Academy, in Ayr, Scotland

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Matthew Crammond

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