UMW Philanthropy Class Announces Grant Recipients

Students enrolled in a philanthropy course at the University of Mary Washington have awarded $10,000 in grant money to the Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters to initiate a Hispanic Youth Mentoring Project in the Fredericksburg area.

Tristan Diaz, class-elected representative of the course-created Mary Washington Charitable Foundation, made the announcement today at the university’s Jepson Alumni Executive Center.

“I’m so honored and elated,” said Lisa Bales, executive director of Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters. “This award will enable us to launch this program very soon. It’s going to allow us to do something fresh and different and serve a population that is really needed.”

The pilot project, which will be augmented by the Ronald McDonald House Charities, will serve a minimum of 25 Hispanic children through a long-term mentoring relationship. Hispanic adults will be matched with Hispanic children between the ages of 6 and 13 who come from a single parent home. The Mary Washington Charitable Foundation gift will make it possible for the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization to hire a part-time coordinator who will assist in recruiting and training the adult volunteers.

The grants were funded by Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation, which provided the class with $10,000 to award how it saw fit. The class of 21 students reviewed a total of ¬¬27 applications.

“We wanted to fund a program that would provide underprivileged youth with the skills, knowledge and character development necessary to be successful in school and beyond,” Diaz said.

He said that that mentoring project will achieve these goals by hiring a project director who will be responsible for pairing at-risk Hispanic youth with bilingual mentors and will give the participants the opportunity to build a healthy relationship that will provide them with the support, security and skills necessary to make good decisions.

The course, Economics of Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector, is taught by Robert Rycroft, professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington. It allows students to learn about philanthropy through the hands-on experience of forming a foundation, creating the criteria for the award, soliciting applications for the grants, reviewing the applications and selecting the award winners.

The class has reaffirmed Diaz’s conviction in giving back to the community.

“As I read through the applications, I was humbled by the dedication and goals set by each organization,” Diaz said. “There are few opportunities in the classroom setting to apply the theoretical framework of our studies to the real world. Knowing that our decisions will benefit not only individuals but also the community as a whole has brought the class and Professor Rycroft closer together.”

This is the fourth year the class has been offered, and it is slated to be taught each fall at the University of Mary Washington with continued funding from the Sunshine Lady Foundation. Buffett also funds similar courses at Cornell University, the University of Virginia, Tufts University, Davidson College and the University of Montana.

Past recipients in the Fredericksburg area were the National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation, the Fredericksburg Counseling Services, Inc., Homes for America: Heritage Park Academic Achievement Program, Rebuilding Together, Rappahannock Refuge Inc./Hope House and the Fredericksburg Regional Boys and Girls Club.

The Sunshine Lady Foundation is a private family foundation funded by Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffet. The foundation invests in organizations and programs dedicated to providing opportunities for the advancement of education, well being and new life choices for disadvantaged people with special empathy for the working poor and families in crisis. More information about the foundation is available at www.sunshineladyfdn.org.

For more information about the philanthropy course at the University of Mary Washington, contact Dr. Rycroft at (540) 654-1500 or rrycroft@umw.edu.

About Marty Morrison