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The pandemic has been a challenge to everyone, but perhaps more so to students. Not only was their academic year abruptly truncated last year, but this year many are having to do their learning from a distance. The dynamics of the classroom has changed and curriculums have been adjusted from semesters to quadmesters - four blocks of learning concentrating on two subjects per quad. The teachers have faced the challenge, encouraging the students to persevere, challenging them to step out of their comfort zones and make learning intuitive and interesting. An essential part of the curriculum is the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) project where high school students have to identify, explore and research a social issue. Each year, YPI Canada grants hundreds of thousands of dollars to community-based charities and it’s the students who decide who to submit for consideration. Philanthropy and learning collide in this initiative. It’s a program that speaks to me because my experience with charities as a volunteer and a donor is an integral part of who I am. 

I’d like to share the efforts of five teachers at Aldershot School in Burlington who challenged their Grade 10 students to compete for a grant for their charity of choice. The teachers - Jennifer Riley who teaches French Immersion and Jaime Mitchell, Matthew Maguire, Ramiel Nassara and Kerry Sagar - who teach in the I-STEM Program (@ISTEM_HDSB on Twitter); an integrated program across four subjects (Science, English, Civics/Careers, Math), sometimes teach via Google Meet and sometimes face-to-face with the students in class. In September, armed with a $5000 grant from YPI, the teachers tasked the students to individually select a social issue impacting their community and a charity that addresses that issue. The students had to create a video pitch for their cause and charity, which was then viewed by their peers.

“I remain committed to my belief that we can ask students to engage in meaningful projects that change the world while also covering curriculum,” Mitchell posted on Twitter.

The video pitches were the result of the students’ deep research into the social issue they chose and an examination of the impact it has on the community. In their videos, the students outlined the social issue and highlighted how their chosen charity helps.

I invite you to watch the student-created videos. Not only is their understanding of social issues clear and their creativity inspiring, it is encouraging that young people are ready, willing and able to do something about it.

There were four runners-up and one finalist from the groups that were formed.


Runner up #1 The Burlington Food Bank


Runner up #2 Society of St. Vincent de Paul


Runner up #3 Halton Learning Foundation


Runner up #4 The Bruce Trail Conservancy


And the winner of the $5000 grant: Halton Women’s Place

Congratulations to all involved! This has been a great initiative and it's wonderful to see our students so engaged in the charitable sector of our community.  Well done! 

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