Last month I launched a blog series to bring more awareness to the organizations you donate to as part of the Small Change initiative. My first Spotlight highlighted The Wish Project, a “goods bank” in Lowell, Massachusetts.
My ask of everyone reading the Spotlights is to share them, get involved with the organization if you live in the area, or if you’re inspired by the work they do, consider donating a few dollars. Remember, Small Change results in BIG impact.
Next up is YouthRoots, a nonprofit in Denver, Colorado that empowers high school students to change the world for the better. The program uses philanthropy as a vehicle to engage students in personal development, community partnerships, and innovative ventures in conjunction with a leadership curriculum. I had the pleasure of connecting with Lauren Czajka, YouthRoots’ Director of Operations to learn more about this important organization.
What does YouthRoots do?
YouthRoots teaches teenagers how to change the world. No, but really…that’s what we do. We teach youth how to identify and respond to the needs in their community. We use the philanthropic process (needs assessment, fundraising, and grant-making) as the experiential classroom, in conjunction with a leadership curriculum.
What is your greatest need?
YouthRoots is growing at a rapid, but efficient pace—we quintupled our impact in less than two years and only doubled our budget. It’s been amazing to see the organization explode, but our financial support has been slow to grow with the organization. Our greatest need is to expand our donor base to match our expanded services.
Can you share a memorable impact story?
I think this is best done through the words of our YouthBoard members:
“YouthRoots allowed me to find my voice in the community and use my communication skills for interviews and training, among other things. YouthRoots gave me the confidence I needed to step out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams.”
“Participating in YouthRoots was an incredible opportunity and it’s greatly shaped who I am today. After finishing the curriculum, I truly feel as though I can make a difference within the world and I’m very grateful for that! Recently, I’ve been accepted into the Engineering Leadership program at CU Boulder and they strongly emphasize involvement in the community. If it weren’t for YouthRoots, I wouldn’t feel as though I’d be competent enough to join. Since my time with YouthRoots, I’ve used several of the skills we were taught including relationship building, grant analysis, teamwork, interpersonal communication, and many others.”
“The best thing YouthRoots has done for me is show me that if I take responsibility and step up to the plate, there IS a way for me to make a difference. It’s given me confidence that just because I’m a high school student doesn’t mean I can’t make an impact in my community.”
What does success look like to you?
I know this is super duper cheesy, but every day is a success story. The impact the YouthRoots program has on our participants really is outstanding. The organization has experienced so much growth in the 2.5 years I’ve been here. We went from impacting 15 students a year to 100 students a year, and we’re constantly preparing to continue scaling the program to meet demand. Ultimate success is being able to work with every high school student who is passionate about making the world a better place.
How can the community get involved with YouthRoots?
Currently, we’re looking for Impact Partners around metro Denver. In the words of our former board chair, “Impact Partners are the coolest way to do philanthropy!” They are role models who volunteer 30 minutes to listen to a fundraising pitch given by students who are fundraising for local charities. Impact Partners share life advice and career insight, and students share the findings of their needs assessment and then ultimately make a fundraising pitch.
Donating is completely optional. Toward the end of the year, the students pool the money they raised and decide as a group which nonprofits are best at meeting their community’s needs. (PS: Impact Partner donations work double time…they end up in the hands of the nonprofits that are best meeting the needs of youth, and they also allow YouthRoots participants to complete a life changing leadership development program.)
Anything else you’d like to share?
Just a big ole’ THANK YOU to everyone who has helped make YouthRoots the wonderful organization it is—Founder Lacey Books, our Board of Directors, our staff, volunteers, supporters, advocates, and donors. Thank you!
Keeping with the theme of my blog, what’s your favorite local adventure spot?
I love running around Sloan’s Lake with the mix of beautiful mountain and city views in the company of hundreds of fellow lake lovers. Close 2nd is all of Denver’s bike paths.
If you’re interested in learning more about YouthRoots or getting involved, contact Lauren directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I first learned about YouthRoots in August 2014 as part of running the Pikes Peak Marathon – read my donation story. Where’s your next race or adventure? I encourage you to leave behind a little goodness in your destination city by joining together for Small Change. The organization you select may be the next Spotlight.