Since 2009, the Inland Empire Community Foundation’s Youth Grantmakers program has been inspiring youth to engage in local philanthropy.

Participants in the San Bernardino, Riverside and Coachella Valley Youth Grantmakers meet once a month from September through June.  Over two hours on Sundays, high school students learn about the needs in their communities and the nonprofit organizations that work to meet these needs. Participants learn to analyze grant applications, respectfully discuss where funds will have the most impact and jointly agree on the grant awards. They also work together on a community volunteer project; this year they collected donations for Feeding America’s food bank.

In the 2021-2022 school year, 33 three students from 16 High Schools awarded $30,000 in grants to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

This year, Youth Grantmakers supported 15 organizations including:

Assistance League of Riverside
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire
Girls on the Run Riverside County
Love Riverside
Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center

Coachella Valley
ABC Hopes, Inc.
Assistance League Coachella Valley
Highlanders Boxing Club
Project Fighting Chance
RMC Charitable Foundation

San Bernardino
Assistance League of Victor Valley
Empowering Success Now
Foothill Family Shelter
Magdalena’s Daughters
S & L Foster Family Agency

Every year, graduating seniors choose a Senior Charity of Choice. This year, one of the senior participants asked if he could give his award to support the Youth Grantmakers program. This was the first time a grant was awarded to support the work of the program by the participants.

“He felt it was instrumental in his life and wanted to help future Grantmakers,” program manager Denisha Shackelford said. “It’s a life-changing program where participants can use their experience in life and in job opportunities.”

The program has a positive impact on participants, teaching them leadership skills and helping them to find their voice. Youth are often overlooked and feel that adults do not listen to what they have to say, according to Shackelford. Youth Grantmakers gives them the opportunity to discuss what they feel are the biggest challenges in their communities and discover how they can use their voice to help surmount them.

“This program has given me a voice,” said participant Carmen Guzman. “As youth we are often times looked over, but this program has provided me the opportunity to speak up on our behalf.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, participants made the choice to support nonprofits with unrestricted funds to help them weather the challenges of the health crisis. This year, as the students moved back to providing programmatic funding, they prioritized programs that focused on mental health issues. Having faced the challenges of distance learning and seeing their peers struggle with their isolation, they saw a need to address mental health.

Youth Grantmakers worked remotely, and all three cohorts worked together. While their primary focus was on supporting organizations in their respective regions, they also had the opportunity to learn about nonprofits in other regions. Additionally, they had the benefit of creating relationships with other students in different regions of the counties.

Alumni of the Youth Grantmakers program often recommend friends and siblings to apply to be participants in the program, wanting others to share the same experience. They also come back to assist with the programming or find new ways to help the community on their own. One alum reached out to the program to get advice on implementing a backpack program in the elementary school he used to go to, wanting to ensure that students had the supplies they needed for school.

Many of this year’s Youth Grantmakers participants will be returning next year and there is space for more students to get involved. The program will be reaching out to high school counselors in August to suggest new participants. Freshmen, sophomores and juniors interested in being a part of the program can reach out directly to the Inland Empire Community Foundation at

Join us as we support youth and nonprofits in our region. Your contribution to the Youth Grantmakers program helps build a strong foundation for tomorrow’s leaders while uplifting the good work of local nonprofits today.

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