Know a teen who has the best ideas and the dedication to get a project up and running? Philanthropy Tank is now accepting applications from Baltimore city students for its second cohort of CHANGEmakers. Philanthropy Tank, which originated in Florida, launched in Baltimore in 2019 to empower the next generation of Charm City young entrepreneurs to solve problems and enact change in their own communities.
Why Baltimore? Co-founder and President of the Board Evan Deoul lived in Baltimore for 30 years and knew it would be a great market. Executive Director Joann Levy elaborates, “One of the things that is very important to us in Baltimore is that the students should reflect the diversity of the city. We are extremely inclusive, but many students may not have access to these opportunities in underserved and under resourced communities.”
Student CHANGEmakers propose ideas for new projects covering areas including human rights, environmental activism, and community development. Joann Levy embraces her role working with Baltimore students, coaxing out ideas and helping to make these big plans come to life.
“These students have such incredible ideas for change,” explains Joann. “But no one ever asks them.” When asking students where they want to see change, the ideas are sometimes grandiose–wiping out poverty or getting new school buildings–but with a little guidance these big ideas can be broken down into achievable projects. “We ask students, what is it about the neighborhood that breaks your heart and what do you think you can do about it? These students have the best solutions because they are closest to the problems,” explains Joann.
“I learned that no idea is a bad idea when it comes from the heart,” explains student Diane Fakinlede, 12 grader at Western School for Tech and Environmental Science and part of the Linking for Brilliance middle-school mentorship program. “I had been struggling for a while on whether I should take on a project about mentoring until I went with my gut and took the project on. Only we can be our strongest motivators.”
Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic that stopped many programs and closed schools, Philanthropy Tank was still able to provide a combined $91,500 funding to 8 student projects which engaged over 20 Baltimore city students from 13 different high schools across the city. And this was just in year 1!
Student groups were offered funding and paired with a mentor to guide them through the process of getting their dream project up and running. Current projects include Memory Creation, a garden to commemorate loved ones lost to gun violence; Birds Eye View Podcast, a forum for teens to discuss pertinent issues and their solutions; and Explo Foods, the creation of a hydroponic garden to distribute fresh produce to the community.
Despite navigating the ongoing pandemic, each student team has made immense progress in just over three months since the finals event in November. “We really support the students–they have the mentor, the Philanthropy Tank staff, and coaches. We try to surround them with people who and really help them to ensure that their project is going to be successful and reach their desired outcomes,” says Joann. Students are exposed to many different kinds of professionals including philanthropist mentors who come from the Baltimore business and nonprofit communities and have experience at organizations like Brown Capital Management, Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Dream BIG Foundation, and others..
Jayda Harris is a student at Baltimore City College and part of Play Your Way, an initiative to build a playground in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. She describes her experience with Philanthropy Tank as transformative. “It has allowed me to make substantial and monumental changes in my community that would ensure the happiness and success of children to come. I am able to put a smile on people’s faces and put hope back into communities that people had lost hope in,” she explains.
The key to a solid Philanthropy Tank project is sustainability–can these projects grow and continue to have a positive impact? Good news is that Philanthropy Tank has a great track record as ⅔ of projects remain active and half of those have applied for 501c3 status.
When asked for one word to describe her experience with Philanthropy Tank, student CHANGEmaker Ania McNair chose challenge. Ania is a 12th grader at Reginald F. Lewis high school and part of NOT FOR SALE, an initiative to raise awareness about human trafficking for youth in Baltimore city. “They want you to be the best version of yourself and your vision. They will challenge you to think outside the box and help you get used to being uncomfortable,” Ania explains.
Who should apply to be considered for up to $15,000 funding for Philanthropy Tank’s 2021 cohort of youth-led and adult-supported projects? Students enrolled in the 8th to 12th grade in Baltimore City are eligible. Students can apply as an individual or as part of a team consisting of up to four students.
Joann encourages any interested Baltimore city youth, parents, or educators to check out the Philanthropy Tank’s website (www.philanthropytank.org) or social media (including Facebook and Instagram) to get a glimpse at the impressive student projects and to see what kinds of programs have been funded in the past.
Want some insider advice on your application? We went straight to the source–students who have successfully navigated the application process.
“Give it your all and never think that your idea is too small,” says Jayda Harris. “There are problems everywhere and occurring every day, your ‘small’ idea can end up changing the lives of many people around you. Anyone can be a CHANGEmaker, no matter your background. Do not let people discourage you because YOU CAN make a change in your community.”
Diane Fakinlede had additional wisdom to offer. And while it certainly applies to Philanthropy Tank, we think this kind of motivation is easily applied to any new undertaking. “Do not compare yourself or your idea to anyone else. Yes, there will be some overlaps in your project with another that is existing, but the difference is your story, your background, and YOUR drive.”