Wait for it?

Wait your turn, kid. That’s the main rule of making decisions about our community, isn’t it? You wait until you’re old enough to really understand the situation. You couldn’t possibly understand our community’s needs when you’re just a teenager. And even if you did, how would you know what to do? Wait. Learn. Listen. Wait some more.

Allyson, who just graduated from high school, knows that’s the rule. “There is a stereotype about teens that assumes we aren’t aware of what’s going on in our community – or we just don’t care.”

At the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, the high school students in our Teens for Tomorrow youth philanthropy program are breaking that rule.

And we’re encouraging it!

We have to. One of the most crucial attributes of a community foundation is that we are here to support our community permanently. The endowments that we hold will benefit the Quad Cities region for years and years to come. We need to make sure that the next generation of caring, knowledgeable, passionate people is ready to use those financial resources to do the great work our community needs.

But why wait until then? We want that next generation to become leaders today.

That’s why, since 2002, we have helped over 200 young people in the Quad Cities to become philanthropists through Teens for Tomorrow (T4T). In T4T, high schoolers from Rock Island and Scott Counties work together to understand our whole community, create a grant program that addresses important needs, and award $10,000 in grants every year to the excellent nonprofits that apply.

“I have learned more about my community in the past two years through T4T than I had in my 16 years prior,” says Allyson. “Teens for Tomorrow has given me the opportunity to develop my own opinions about community issues and the power to actually do something about it. T4T goes against the status quo and lets us prove that we do care about our community, and that we have the power to make a significant difference.”

Our T4T members go beyond grantmaking; they get deeply connected to our community and  the nonprofits they learn about. One member, Liz, heard a nonprofit leader say that one thing they really need is people to spread their message to others in the community. Not only did she commit to doing so herself, she worked with that nonprofit to develop a training for high school and college students on how to advocate for causes they care about.

Liz didn’t wait. She saw the need and stepped up to meet it - now.

She says, “The people I’ve met through T4T, other members and nonprofit leaders alike, have inspired me to take on the challenge of making a difference in the lives of others. I know I am entering the adult world tens steps ahead of the average high schooler, thanks to my experience in T4T. These past two years have shown me the struggles and setbacks of becoming an effective philanthropist, but most of all, they proved to me that I can do it.”

T4T produces young people who are passionate about our community, knowledgeable about its needs, and empowered to do something about it. We know that giving them the opportunity to make a difference now means they’ll keep doing that in the future, making the Quad Cities stronger in this generation and the next.

For that, we’re willing to break the rules.

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