interns

Community Foundation for the Alleghenies Youth Philanthropy teams Our Region and Whole Person, Whole Community pose for a picture on Friday at Flood City Cafe. Members of Our Region are, in no order, Jonathan Guaetta, Reagan Hajjar, Hannah Slope, Quinn Spangler and Jenna Stofko. Members of Whole Person, Whole Community are, in no order, Maggie Blaisdell, Sophie Hochfeld, Cameron Pressel, Brendan Veney and Rebecca Johnson.

A group of students are getting the opportunity to enhance their community, while gaining valuable lessons in teamwork and decision-making, through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ Youth Philanthropy Internship program.

Eight recent high school graduates, along with two team leaders who have returned to the program after participating last year, have divided into two groups – Whole Person Whole Community and Our Region.

They have been given $50,000 total – $25,000 apiece – from The Heinz Endowments to award to organizations throughout Bedford, Cambria, Indiana and Somerset counties.

The interns have already conducted research, visited sites, organized into teams and chosen areas of interest.

On Friday, during an event at Flood City Cafe in downtown Johnstown, both announced they are now accepting requests for proposal from groups interested in receiving funding.

“The Youth Philanthropy Internship program provides a really great experience for young adults in our community who want to make a difference and have seen a need for some changes, but don’t typically have the resources to be able to do it on their own,” Angie Berzonski, CFA’s program officer, said. “At the Community Foundation, we teach them about civic engagement, we teach them about research, and statistics, and need and issues.

“But primarily this gives them a voice, and lets them say, from my youth perspective, ‘I think this is a problem and I would like to do something to make it better.’ And how often do they get a chance to do that?”

Whole Person Whole Community, with members leader Maggie Blaisdell, Sophie Hochfeld (Westmont Hilltop graduate), Rebecca Johnson (Rockwood Area), Cameron Pressel (Northern Bedford) and Brendan Veney (Greater Johnstown), wants to support programs that promote individual wellness and, in turn, the wellness of the entire community, while building social relations.

“When we did our site visits, we basically noticed that that were two major gaps in our community,” Johnson said.

“One was community involvement and also the physical and mental health, so we decided to combine the two by supporting a wellness program. But we simultaneously want one that connects people together from our community.”

Our Region consists of leader Jonathan Guaetta, Reagan Hajjar (Central Cambria), Hannah Slope (Rockwood Area), Quinn Spangler (Forest Hills) and Jenna Stofko (Bishop McCort).

Its goal is to help organizations that repurpose, regenerate and revitalize area assets to promote economic development.

“A lot of youth – whether it’s our age or in their 20s – seem to have this stigma that when we grow up we want to move away,” Slope said. “We thought that we have a chance to either develop new business or attract new people to the area. In order to add a twist to it, we wanted to adopt the idea of repurposing.”

Interns will now receive and evaluate applications and then select recipients.

“It’s crazy to have $25,000,” Johnson said. “That is way more money than I’ve ever seen in my entire life obviously. I think having the power to really impact community organizations in a meaningful way is something that I find amazing.

“And that’s my favorite part of the internship.”

Copies of the RFPs can be obtained by visiting CFA’s office at 216 Franklin Street, Suite 400, Johnstown, online at cfalleghenies.org/grants/, or by emailing mblaisdell@cfalleghenies.org or jguaetta@cfalleghenies.org. Complete applications are due by Aug. 2.

Recipients will be announced on Aug. 8 during CFA’s Founders’ Day celebration.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.