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Orillia Secondary School students secure $5,000 for local charities

Youth and Philanthropy Initiative goes ahead despite pandemic; 'We were really pleased with the results,' teacher says
2019-05-22 YPI Orillia 6
The judges of last year's Youth and Philanthropy Initiative presentations at Orillia Secondary School are shown. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters file photo

Local students have stepped up to help charities during a time of great demand for their services.

Students in Orillia began taking part in the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) more than a decade ago at Park Street Collegiate Institute. The program continued with OD/Park Secondary School and, now, Orillia Secondary School. It sees students in civics class make a pitch for financial support for local charities.

Each year, YPI — thanks to funding from the Toskan Casale Foundation — grants $5,000 to the local students who have winning presentations.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of schools and the introduction of distance learning, there was concern YPI wouldn’t happen this year. However, teachers across the country were surveyed and it was determined they wanted to go ahead with it.

Students typically get together in teams, research the charity they want to support, visit those organizations and put together multimedia presentations. The judges pick one winning charity to receive $5,000. This year, schools were given the options of spreading that money out among any or all of the students’ charities of choice. That’s what happened at Orillia Secondary School.

Students ​Ariel Yoshaev and Elias Barkey chose the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter, as did Rachel Jeon, while Erin Doble went to bat for Youth Haven and Ashley Greenwood tried to secure funding for Helping Hands Orillia. Everyone was a winner, with the Lighthouse receiving $2,500 and Youth Haven and Helping Hands getting $1,250 each.

“They were exceptional,” Nathan Box, the teacher who oversees the YPI project at Orillia Secondary School, said of the presentations. “A few of them were at least as good as any I’ve seen in the past.”

That was impressive, especially since some of the students didn’t get to start on their projects until after the schools were closed.

Students were told they didn’t have to visit, or even contact, the charities, but all of them reached out to the organizations anyway.

“They just kind of went with it. It was very creative and they put a lot of effort into it,” Box said. “We didn’t know, going into this, what to expect. We were really pleased with the results and it shows that the students care about the charities.”

The timing of the funding couldn’t be better, he added.

“It helps multiple charities, which is good, especially during this pandemic.”

More than $55,000 has been raised for local organizations since Orillia students began taking part in YPI. Since YPI started in 2002, more than $10 million has been granted to charities across the country.

More information about YPI can be found here.

To learn more about the charities that received funding through the program this year, check out the websites for the Lighthouse, Youth Haven and Helping Hands.