For 11 Moffat County High School students, making an impact on their community was a top priority this school year.
Because of their efforts, a few more needy children will be outfitted with shoes and socks, have new playground equipment to enjoy or benefit from improved social services.
As a part of the El Pomar Youth in Community Service program, the 11 students distributed $5,050 in grant money to local organizations at a reception Friday at the Hampton Inn.
The program stipulates that if the group of students raised at least $500, the El Pomar Foundation would contribute funds to get them to $5,000.
It’s then up to the students, many of whom are members of the community service-oriented Key Club, to solicit proposals, interview organizations and allocate the funds.
“It was hard because at first we wanted to give money to all of them,” junior April Rogers said.
But, using a student body survey and a mission statement the group drafted, they directed their funding where they thought it would make the most impact.
At Friday’s reception, the students presented checks ranging from $500 to $1,500 to Love INC for children’s clothing, Moffat County 4-H for its embryology program, the Moffat County Cancer Society, Horizons Specialized Services and Court Appointed Special Advocates.
The Hampton Inn donated space for the reception, which took place during the students’ lunch period.
Joel Sheridan, who was the MCHS principal when EPYCS began at the high school more than a decade ago, said the program was valuable to shaping future community leaders.
“We want high school kids to get a sense of the needs in the community,” he said. “And for them to understand how awarding grants works.”
Participants included Mandi Ellgen, Kellie Looper, Velvet Warne, Heather Nicholson, April Etheridge, Slade Gurr, Kirstie McPherson, Parker King, Becca Pugh, Kevin Murray, and Rogers.
Ellgen, a junior, said she was proud to be part of a program that gave back to the community.
“It’s an honor to be a part of something that gives out $5,000 in grants to the community,” she said. “And we really have to thank Mrs. (Cindy) Morris and Corrie (Ponikvar). It’s been a really great experience and I’ve learned a lot.”
Ponikvar, Moffat County United Way executive director, and Morris, a high school teacher, joined together to mentor the students, but now have to fight for the future of the program.
El Pomar dropped the EPYCS program two years ago, but gave a two-year extension to 58 schools, including MCHS.
They offered MCHS $5,000 each year for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, down from previous years when the grants averaged $7,500.
However, Ponikvar said she plans solicit grants from United Way and the Human Resources Council to continue to provide an avenue for students like Nicholson, the only senior in EPYCS this year, to learn how to give back.
Nicholson said she’s enjoyed the experience and will take the lessons she learned with her after she graduates.
“It’s gotten me into the community more,” Nicholson said. “I’m able to help out, and I like to help people.
“It’s always cool to help, and they really appreciate it.”