A 2020-2021 Phillips Alumni Scholar
Ariel Rodriguez (’24 Providence College) gained rare experience in high school as a youth philanthropist through the Greater Worcester Community Fund’s program Youth for Community Improvement (YCI), helping to award grants totaling $50,000 over two years. YCI’s grants are focused on youth achievement, mental health, and support for refugee and immigrant families, with a preference for nonprofits with a history of youth leadership. “We learned a great lesson in consensus building and also grew to look at our community in a different way than any of us had before.” After reviewing the applications and making their selections each year, they were able to meet the grantees. Particularly meaningful was the group’s award to the Nativity School of Worcester, the tuition-free independent middle school for underserved boys that Ariel had attended. “I was astonished that I was able to make an impact on people in the same position I used to be in.”
Building on that experience, Ariel joined the Worcester Teen Leadership Council, where he helped organize a conference at Worcester’s South High School to develop the youth voice, teach students about philanthropy and encourage working through organizations like YCI. After applying for and receiving both a $1,000 grant and helpful feedback from the global organization Peace First, the group changed their name to Understanding Youth Philanthropy and expanded the scope of their mission. “We decided to become more of an advocacy group that would give presentations to community foundations with philanthropy boards and advocate the importance of youth voices in leadership positions. Due to COVID-19, we had to change how we did that, so we decided to create a video to send to community boards and post on social media.”
Ariel graduated from Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA, in 2020, and is now a first-year student at Providence College, where he is already quite involved (despite the pandemic) with the Providence Immigrant Rights Coalition, an advocacy group for DACA and first- and second-generation students that focuses on immigration issues. He also participates in OLAS, a Hispanic/Latinx cultural group, and Mentor RI, a mentoring program that matches at-risk youth with adult mentors.