DeKalb County high school students support local efforts to address youth mental wellness

Youth Engaged in Philanthropy group awards $5K to Family Service Agency

YEP 2.Pro committee members Steffini McDowell and Max Cryer present a $5,000 check to Family Service Agency employee Sha' Hill

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County area high school students recently worked together to support a local nonprofit’s efforts to address youth mental wellness, part of a program through the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

The students are part of the community foundation’s Youth Engaged in Philanthropy program, according to a news release. Eleven students make up the youth program’s “YEP 2.Pro” committee. The group recently awarded a $5,000 grant to Family Service Agency of DeKalb County for the nonprofit’s programming to address youth mental health and anxiety.

Family Service Agency officials said the grant will help several programs, including: Color Me Happy; Resilience, Inspiration, Support Empowerment (RISE); Managing Emotions, Thoughts and Actions (META); Early Intervention Prevention; and Social Emotional Learning Groups.

“YEP’s generous grant is not just a gift; it’s a promise of hope for the youth in our social-emotional learning groups,” said Shatoya Jackson, the agency’s director of school based services and youth programming, in a news release. “With heartfelt gratitude, we extend our deepest thanks for empowering us to make a profound impact in the lives of DeKalb County youth.”

The 11-member subcommittee of the Youth Engaged in Philanthropy committee are juniors and seniors in high school with one or two more years of membership in the group, according to the news release. The committee explores issues in the community and identifies ways to help address them.

YEP 2.Pro committee March 2024 meeting for proactive grant addressing community youth mental health

This year’s committee identified mental health and anxiety in youth as a priority to support.

“Our committee agreed that the organization we choose should impact a large majority of youth in Dekalb County while also making it fun and educating them about mental health,” YEP 2.Pro Chair Steffini McDowell said in a news release. “When we explored the current work of FSA, we realized they were a great match because of their numerous youth programs addressing mental health while also helping them cope with their environment.”

The YEP Horizons Unlimited Fund, a significant source of grant dollars for YEP 2.Pro Grants, is a testament to the power of community support, according to a news release. Established in 2021 at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, the fund was initially a gift from Nancy D. Castle and her children. It was designed to bolster YEP’s proactive grant-making efforts, supporting organizations, programs and projects in DeKalb County. Additional grant dollars are contributed by donors to the Youth Engaged in Philanthropy group during Give DeKalb County, an annual 24-hour fundraiser which helps dozens of nonprofits in the area.

The mission of Youth Engaged in Philanthropy is to improve the quality of life for youth in the community, according to a news release. The group is open to all high school students in DeKalb County. Members learn about grantmaking, nonprofit organizations, the importance of philanthropy.

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