By Nickolaus Hines
Eleven Opelika High School students at the top of the class of 2016 gave more than $8,000 to a local philanthropy of their choice at a luncheon on June 18.
Opelika High School Philanthropy 101, a three–week summer program sponsored by the W. James Samford, Jr. Foundation, chose a select group of students to learn about philanthropic service.
Rising seniors Anna Brown, Scot Carpenter, Jasmine Garcia, Emme Levins, J Arthur Grubbs, Aleah Herring, Will McKee, Emma Royal, Jasmine Sistrunk, De’Vontre Thompson and Cidney Woodson were chosen for the class that Sara Ahnell and Betsy Gore taught. Each student was given $1,200 dollars, and was required to present at least $700 to a philanthropy of their choice at the concluding luncheon.
The course taught about how individuals can give back and make a difference in their community through classroom and hands-on experience at local non-profit organizations.
“I have to tell you as I sat back there and saw Mrs. Gore and Mrs. Ahnell, they were just busting at the seams with pride at what you have done,” said Lucinda Cannon, a board member of the Samford Foundation, to the students attendees at the luncheon. “We feel that everyone can help in some way, and we hope that the past three weeks have made a change in your life.”
On June 8, in the second week of Philanthropy 101, the students visited Shelley Tufts at Exodus Ranch. Exodus Ranch is a non–profit, Christian–based charity that provides a home for local children in need, and is currently working on a building expansion.
The Opelika High School students cleared construction debris in the summer sun and learned about the vision of Tufts and Exodus Ranch.
De’Vontre Thompson had volunteered his time at Exodus Ranch with the Opelika High School football team early in the school year.
“I always knew I wanted to give to Exodus Ranch after the first time,” Thompson said. “I just wish I had money to give, and this (Philanthropy 101) just opened it up.”
Thompson helped knock down walls with the football team, clean up the debris with Philanthropy 101, and decided to donate his allocated money to help build the new, expanded, wall along with Jasmine Sistrunk and Cidney Woodson.
“To be able to see these kids with such open hearts and wanting to help,” Tufts said. “It was really neat to be able to talk to them about what non–profits do in the area.”
The money donated by Thompson, Sistrunk and Woodson will go toward sheet rock for a new wall.
Other non–profit organizations that received donations were the Women’s Hope Medical Clinic, The Miracle League of East Alabama, Storybook Farm, Big House, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County and the Food Bank of East Alabama.
Each student made a visual presentation and speech to the attendees at the luncheon before presenting a check to the philanthropy of their choice. Emotions ranging from excitement to tears ran high during the presentations.
“Thank you for opening our eyes to all the problems in our area,” Woodson said during her presentation. “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one looks at home first. You have to fix what’s here before you can go out.”
Philanthropy 101 kept a blog about their work, which can be found at ohsphilanthropy101.weebly.com.