By Morgan Murphy and Anna Riley
For the Opelika Observer
Opelika High School held a luncheon last Thursday for their Philanthropy 101 summer program. In this program, a group of rising seniors spend three weeks during June bringing the principles of philanthropy to life through hands-on experiences. This program helps the students to become more aware of society’s growing needs.
During the program, the students worked with different philanthropic groups, and each student chose one to present and donate to.
Ethan Lindsey and Montell Norman chose to speak about the Exodus Ranch, which is a nonprofit charity who focus on providing homes for local children in need. Norman felt compelled to donate to the ranch due to the sense of family he felt while he was there, and Lindsey said he wanted to be able to provide more children with a childhood like he had.
Celeste Frazier chose to share the experience she had with the Miracle League of East Alabama, whose mission is to provide opportunities for children with disabilities to play baseball, promote community support and sponsorship as well as promote the construction of special facilities that meet the unique needs of the players. Frazier chose to donatebecause of her previous volunteer work, saying she “really enjoyed seeing how happy the participants were and how much support they got from their family members and the community.”
Martiavia Burditte and Ayrika Harris chose to speak about Ogrows, who install gardens and programming in service of locally identified needs. Ogrows works with the Opelika Learning Center helping the children there learn a sense of self and responsibility through gardening. Burditte chose to donate to Ogrows because it reminded her of time spent with her father in their home garden as a child and she would like to give others the opportunity to do the same. “Ogrows called to me because I feel that is very important to provide our community with fresh and natural foods,” Harris shared.
Makai Gagliano and Ishan Patel spoke of their experiences at Storybook Farms, which currently has 51 acres of land where kids can ride horses for therapeutic enjoyment, learn about the nutritional values of the fruits and vegetables from the garden, and opportunity to play with dogs, cats and goats. According to their mission statement, Storybook Farms “is a place for healing, sharing, learning and growing; where children experience the exhilaration of riding; where families come together to support one another; where volunteers find a profound sense of purpose; and where a community finds its collective spirit.”
Patel said one of the things that touched him the most was “we’re supposed to touch the kids’ lives, but I felt like they touched our lives even more than we did to them.”
Caroline Hawkins chose to share her experience with the nonprofit organization Big House, which serves foster children by donating necessities and organizing fun activities and programs for the kids and their foster families. They take donations of clothes and other items such as bookbags, notebooks, school supplies and money donations. The Big house relies mainly on volunteers and the programs and services they offer include the back to school bash, the clothes closet, kid’s night out, a Santa’s workshop and a family beach retreat. Talking about the volunteers, Hawkins said, “you can just tell they love what they do coming in each day and seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces.”
Gus Bell and Jah Williams shared their experience with Jean Dean RIF which is an organization that puts quality age appropriate books into the hands of children before they start kindergarten to set them up for success at an early age. They cater to children ages 0-5 and give each kid three books in hopes to encourage reading and education.
Every year, they donate about 75,000 books and have many fundraisers such as Ride to Read and are always looking for volunteers.
“Every single one of us has the power to make a difference. What you–students–have experienced these past three weeks has made a difference in your lives, now it’s our turn to make a difference,” said Lucinda Cannon, the founder of the Philanthropy 101 summer program.
The students and organizations also thank Lucinda Cannon, Carole Smith, Dr. Mark Neighbors, Dr. Farrell Seymore, Katie Murray, Tammy Stephens, Amber Landers and Jelani Tuck for their time, guidance and encouragement in helping the 2018 class of OHS Philanthropy 101.