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Getting to know UJA’s Center for Youth Philanthropy and Leadership

by, Caroline Kaplan, JTFN Youth Ambassador

UJA’s Center for Youth Philanthropy and Leadership (CYPL) is designed as a three to four year program for teens to learn, do, and teach. As first-years on the Philanthropic Advisory Council for Teens (PACT), freshmen learn Jewish values such as Maimonides’s Ladder and consensus building. After using these lessons to thoughtfully craft a mission statement, participants search for organizations and programs supporting their mission and eventually choose which to allocate grants to. Participants fundraise in order to allocate these grants. While the participants decide everything together as a council, 4-5 Senior Fellows oversee each board and act as mentors.

The second year of CYPL is Task Force, which is largely similar to PACT but without the introductory lessons or Senior Fellows, allowing second-year participants to delve even deeper, building off of what they learned the year before. After these two years of fundraising and grant allocation, CYPL participants can choose to become Senior Fellows, allowing them to be on the other side of the table as the ones teaching the fundraising tips and tricks.

Transitioning from a first-year council member to a Senior Fellow is incredibly fluid because of the structure of CYPL. The Task Force year in between these two programs allows participants’ learnings from PACT to be reinforced in a new environment, with new fellow council members and a new mission statement. Without the Senior Fellows this time around, Task Force members are able to feel even more empowered. Seeing their work in action for two whole year gains participants the experience necessary to convert themselves into future Senior Fellows. Without this year of Task Force in between, participants would likely feel overwhelmed at needing to quickly become teachers of things they learned just one year prior. Instead, CYPL sets up the high school philanthropic journey in a way which encourages growth from student to teacher to occur naturally.

Currently I am a Senior Fellow and leading in this capacity has allowed me to feel even more confident in my own learnings from PACT. I was able to understand each lesson from a new viewpoint and appreciate it after having seen the way it wound up affecting our grants the first time around. With my two years of fundraising and grant allocation fresh in my mind, I was able to bring these personal experiences into the meetings and pass on my most useful tricks. It felt incredibly rewarding to watch this group of freshmen grow from the first meeting, unsure of their roles in the council, to the last, confident in their consensus and supporting a variety of incredible programs. I was very proud to see how my own encouragement, as someone who had been in their shoes just two years prior, had made an impact on the council members’ mission. After that experience, I decided to be a Senior Fellow once again this school year. Now, having been through both PACT and Senior Fellows, I am able to approach my role with utmost clarity. I can bring my time in both of these roles to this year’s board table, becoming both the voice of reason from my time in PACT and of aspiration as a senior fellow. I know what the council members can achieve, and I am able to push them to surpass their goals.

Caroline Kaplan is a senior at the Horace Mann School in New York. She participates in the Philanthropic Advisory Council for Teens at the UJA Federation of New York, currently serving as a Senior Fellow. In 2016, she founded a graphic design business specializing in photo-based gifts such as collages and videos. The Jewish hero she finds the most inspiring is Anne Frank.