Daniel Morgan, a tenth grader at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, is dedicating himself to raising money for various causes.
That’s why he decided to join the newly-formed JTeen Philanthropy program, which is run by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
About two dozen ninth through 11th graders are working together during a several-month period to learn all about giving.
There will be discussions on how best to choose from a wide variety of causes, how to make sure their contributions are well spent and how to eventually become philanthropic leaders in their communities, explained Samantha Vinokor, teen engagement and philanthropy specialist at the Federation.
“We want them to be able to say, ‘I can make a contribution.’ We want to show them what it really means to engage in philanthropy,” she said.
Each participant contributed $360 of their own money. The Jewish Federation matched that sum for a total of $720.
By the end of the program next spring, the participants will donate that money to the charities they choose.
The students, who attend both public and private schools, will deliver “a giant check like you see on television,” Vinokor said.
So far, the teenagers have talked about many issues, including homelessness, the environment, Jewish identity, disability inclusion and medical issues, Vinokor said.
Before they make any decisions, the teenagers also will learn how to determine the effectiveness of charities and will meet with non-profit organization leaders to learn what certain organizations do and how they allocate their funds.
They also will see how to form a consensus and how to prioritize their charitable wishes, she said.
Their parents are involved as well.
Vinokor said she hopes that what happens during JTeen Philanthropy meetings will stimulate interesting dinner table discussions.
Hopefully, the students realize they can make an impact and be leaders now, she said.
The students are expected to donate about $25,000 to various non-profit organizations, each of which has requested a maximum of $25,000.
Morgan said he is excited about the program and said that learning about the issues and social causes is better than just making a contribution.
The 15-year-old varsity tennis player is partial to organizations that help cancer and work on the Syrian refugee crisis, but he is open to hearing about many other places to give, he said.
Meanwhile, JTeen Philanthropy is also a fun way for teens to come together, he said.
Yacova Mayberg, a ninth grader at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, said her parents have already taught her the importance of giving, and she contributes 10 percent of the money she makes from babysitting to charity.
JTeen Philanthropy is teaching her to really understand all that goes into donating money. “You don’t want to give out your money carelessly,” she said.
A recent group discussion on the best ways to give, including being anonymous or not, impressed her, said Mayberg, who is a member of her school’s United Nations and soccer teams and writes for the school newspaper.
Vinokor plans to offer the program to a new set of teenagers after this first group has thoughtfully and strategically made its donations.