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GNS Students Participate in Vital Youth Program Philanthropy Efforts

Senior School
GNS Students at Vital Youth 2024

In an effort to cultivate a spirit of philanthropy from an early age, students from GNS have been participating in the Vital Youth program for the past few years, brought to the school by the Victoria Foundation and run by GNS teacher Catherine Thijs. This initiative, which spans across many schools in Greater Victoria, aims to allocate funds to various charitable organizations chosen by the students themselves.

“It’s a philanthropy program where the Victoria Foundation allocates $3000 to each participating school. We form committees and research, interview and decide which charities we want to allocate the funds to,” said Grade 11 student, Chelsea. 

This year, GNS students divided into three subgroups focusing on global issues of environment, health and housing. They split their funding to three different charities, allocating $1000 to each.

“For the environment we decided on the Surfrider Foundation, for housing we decided Cool Aid Society and for health, we decided on Children’s Health Foundation,” said Chelsea. 

Owen, Grade 10 student, emphasized the program’s impact on youth involvement in philanthropy. “It empowers youth and provides a platform for them to delve into the philanthropic world,” he said. “Most people don’t get into the philanthropy world until very late or not at all. By establishing these programs that educate and allow youth independence in philanthropy you can network and build those relationships.” 

Both Chelsea and Owen served as liaisons for their respective subgroups. Chelsea, representing the environmental group, advocated for the Surfrider Foundation, which focuses on beach cleanups and water testing through volunteer efforts. Owen, leading the housing subgroup, addressed the pressing issue of affordable housing in Victoria.

Chelsea explained that even though it’s only GNS’ second year of working with this program, leading and setting goals and deadlines for the group, speaking to people within the group and explaining the program to a broader audience have helped her to develop leadership skills that she will take with her into her future. 

Owen echoed that sentiment. “What I’m getting out of this is the skills I’m building and practising being community-minded. The leadership skills, the organization, the initiative and reaching out. I will be able to use that in basically any field that I decide to go into,” he said.  

Mrs. Thijs, a Language and Literature teacher at GNS, expressed admiration for the Vital Youth program, praising its organization and impact on students. 

“Victoria Foundation’s initiative is incredibly well-structured and tailored for students,” she said. “It’s inspiring to witness our students embrace it wholeheartedly, developing leadership and collaboration skills as they navigate through topics they’re passionate about, coming to consensus and often needing to put egos aside.”

The Vital Youth program equips students with the tools to make tangible changes in their communities and also creates a sense of responsibility and empathy. 

The Victoria Foundation is dedicated to empowering youth to engage in philanthropy since it strengthens the community and creates a deeper understanding of critical issues affecting our region. By providing opportunities for young individuals to explore their passions in tandem with societal needs, they can discover meaningful ways to contribute their time, talents and resources to causes close to their hearts. 

By entrusting funding decisions to young participants, they are empowered to make informed choices about which charities to support, taking empowered decision-making like this forward into their future careers and lives.