His father Ray is a prominent two-time candidate for San Diego City Council, so 14-year-old Jake Ellis has plenty of background in the workings of politics and government. He volunteers, and he knows public service is important.

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To learn more about the SVP Teens program, please contact Interim Executive Director, Sierra Visher Kroha.

But like many teenagers, his ability to improve the world around him is limited. Jake can donate his time, but kids like him don’t have significant amounts of money to spend on philanthropy nor the resources to help them figure out who best deserves their support. Right?

Think again. Thanks to a groundbreaking program of San Diego Social Venture Partners, teens like Jake are becoming mini-philanthropists. They’re vetting non-profit organizations, choosing recipients and giving away significant grants. And on the way, they’re learning how to give effectively, efficiently and with a focus on results.

“We’ve learned about what philanthropy organizations do and how they work to help,” says Jake, an eighth grader from Carmel Valley who took part in SDSVP’s first-ever teen program earlier this year. “And it’s opened our eyes to people who are less fortunate.”

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Teaching Teens to Give Smartly

San Diego Social Venture Partners, a non-profit organization, is devoted to helping mindful philanthropists develop savvy and know-how. “We help people learn about philanthropy by exposing them to needs in the community and teaching them how to give strategically of their time and talent,” says executive director Lakshmi Paranthaman. “The SVP Teens Young Philanthropist Program shares the same goals and is bringing a similar experience to kids from 8th-12th grade.”

Earlier this year, a small group of teens applied and were accepted into SDSVP’s first iteration program, which offers these benefits:

  • Comprehensive education about money and how it can be leveraged to make positive social change.
  • Training about the outcomes and impact of philanthropic gifts.
  • A deeper understanding of social issues and how to participate in debates over tough choices.
  • Connections to other teens making a difference in our community.
  • Meaningful leadership opportunities
  • The chance to feel the power of giving and service.

Up Close and Personal, a Look at Need

The students in the teen program visited local non-profits to gain insight into their needs and learned how to analyze financial reports and tax forms. They even got to help those in need directly through multiple service projects like putting together kits of supplies like soap and lotion for children entering the foster system.

“It made me think about people who have many more needs than I do,” says Andrea Chavarria, a sophomore who’s 15 years old and had previously volunteered at her church.

Andrea enjoyed her encounter with the joys of helping others. “When you work with the kids,” she says, “it’s almost like being a parent to them, showing that you can make a change in their life. This has definitely been a great experience.”

For 2 Charities, Checks for $5,000

The students who took part in the SDSVP teen program earlier this year decided to award two $5,000 grants to local non-profits. “It was almost like we were our own mini-business,” student participant Jake Ellis says. “That was really cool.”

One grant went to Promises2Kids, an organization that provides support to foster children and kids removed from homes due to abuse and neglect.

Mi Escuelita Therapeutic Preschool, a program of South Bay Community Services, received the other grant. The preschool, the only one of its kind, helps children affected by domestic violence and abuse.

The experience has inspired Jake to think about his future as a person who helps the world around him. “I want to be a volunteer and some kind of donor,” he says, “and give back in some way.”

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