Thirty undergraduate students presented Bright Beginnings, a child and family development center in Washington, D.C., with a $10,000 grant to help serve more children in the district.
Students had this unique opportunity through the course Leading and Investing in Social Change: Redefining and Experimenting with Philanthropy. Throughout the semester, students learn about the role of philanthropy in American culture and engage in the hands-on experience of establishing and running a philanthropic fund.As part of the course, they research and study the history and practice of philanthropy and have the opportunity to provide a $10,000 grant to an organization of their choosing.
The class was challenged to come up with a cause to support and specific organizations to benefit from the grant. After weeks of research, papers and debates, the class agreed on the issue of early childhood education. Students then created a request for proposals, read applications, interviewed applicants, conducted site visits and worked together to make decisions about the grant awardee. On May 19, as part of the final exam, the class hosted a ceremony to provide Bright Beginnings with the $10,000 grant (provided by the Do Good Institute).
Bright Beginnings offers a bright start for homeless infants, toddlers and preschoolers and their families in Washington, D.C. The nationally-accredited organization serves more than 160 children every day whose families are living in crisis shelters or transitional housing. The organization was established in 1990 by the Junior League of Washington, which identified a critical need for quality childcare among homeless families in Washington, DC. Since then, Bright Beginnings has met the needs of nearly 2,500 homeless children by providing families with developmental childcare and on-site therapeutic and family support services.
Before awarding the grant, students participated in a panel discussion to talk about their experience and what they learned in the class. During the discussion, students said the class changed their perspective on philanthropy, with one saying, “you can’t effectively make change and maximize impact without actively listening, taking in the environment and concerns of the community and having discussions.”
Executive director and CEO of Bright Beginnings Dr. Marla Dean was there to speak with the students and accept the grant. She said, “As a lifelong teacher, nothing is more special or meaningful than when a gift comes from students. This grant will be used to transform the lives of children and their families in a truly different and impactful way.”
Bob Grimm, director of the Do Good Institute, and one of the instructors of the course ended the ceremony by encouraging students to “think about how you can do good next semester, next year and throughout your life. You don’t have to wait – you can transform the world now.”