Undergraduate students presented CASA of Prince George’s County, which provides a voice for abused and neglected children, with a $7,500 grant to help serve more children in the county. 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 $7,500 grant to an organization of their choosing.
At the beginning of the semester, the class was challenged by Professor Alex Counts, founder of the Grameen Foundation, 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 supporting children who have suffered acute trauma. 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 14, as part of the final exam, the class hosted a ceremony to provide CASA with the $7,500 grant (provided by the Do Good Institute).
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Prince George’s County is a volunteer-based organization that partners with the juvenile court to improve the lives of abused and neglected children living in foster care. With a strong commitment to diversity, CASA trains and supervises volunteers from the community who advocate for the best interest of children, recognizing and respecting each child's individual needs. By providing a voice to children in the foster care system, it is our goal to promote the timely placement of the children we serve in safe, permanent homes.
Before awarding the grant, students shared their reflections of the course and experience with the grant process. During the discussion, students said the class changed their perspective on philanthropy, with one saying, “Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to do good in the past, it’s been through community service. This class allowed me to look at philanthropy from the perspective of a grantor. While it’s your money, it’s the grantee who is making the change. So there is a compromise you have to make between your vision and the organization’s expertise.”
Deputy director of CASA PG County Kara Bundy was there to speak with the students and accept the grant. She said, “Currently, we can only serve 35 percent of foster children in the area. There are 100 kids on the waitlist for our services and this grant will allow us to train 85 more CASA volunteers and match them with children on that waitlist.”
Leading and Investing in Social Change: Redefining and Experimenting with Philanthropy is one of two courses in the spring semester that teaches students about philanthropy and gives them the opportunity to give a $7,500 grant to an organization of their choosing.