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NS4G celebrates 5 years of making a difference

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Northeastern Students4Giving, the University’s experiential philanthropy education program housed in the Human Services Program at the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, has awarded over $83,000 to local nonprofit organizations since its launch in 2008. This year, students, faculty, and friends celebrated the organization’s fifth anniversary with an awards ceremony on Thursday, April 18.

In her remarks at the ceremony, just days after the attack on the Boston Marathon, Program Director Rebecca Riccio reflected on the students who are involved in NS4G.

“I am especially proud to be part of a program which routinely attracts young people who come to us to learn how to make a difference in their professional lives and in their private lives,” Rebecca Riccio said. “It’s a source of comfort to see the care and intensity with which they take the responsibility of giving this money back to the community. It’s also a source of comfort that they will define the future.”

The program engages in real-world philanthropy, awarding grants to local nonprofits determined by annual funding priorities and a rigorous review process. The undergraduates begin the grant-giving cycle in the course “Human Services Professions” by determining local Boston neighborhoods’ most-pressing needs. This year’s NS4G cohort determined those funding priorities to be community mental health and post-incarceration reintegration. Then, after developing a rubric, conducting site visits, and engaging in rigorous deliberations, the students give real-dollar grants to deserving nonprofits.

At the ceremony, NS4G students Sara Pressman and Carolyn Walker awarded Project Place, an organization whose mission it is to provide career development and peer support for incarcerated women preparing to re-enter their communities, one of the competitive grants because it’s the “innovative, passionate, organized, and respectful organization” for which they had been seeking.

Students Katty Mojica-Martinez and Theresa Park presented the second grant to Bridge Over Troubled Waters for the organization’s creativity, its community ties, its passion, and for its potential in helping individuals with mental illness overcome the economic, social, and cultural barriers to accessing mental healthcare.

Both grants of $10,000 each were made possible by gifts from Learning by Giving Foundation and the Wong Family.

Earlier this year, NS4G also hosted its annual Social Impact Conference where Learning by Giving Foundation announced the national winners of its Decisions with Impact student philanthropy video contest. Two NS4G produced videos profiling past grantees Haley House and Brookview House were finalists in the contest. Haley House and Brookview House, who were also in attendance at this year’s ceremony, received a combined $2,500 in the contest from Learning by Giving.

NS4G relies on donors for these grants, as well as for its lecture series and its conference. These funds have also been provided by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, the Arthur K. Watson Charitable Trust, the Charlotte Foundation, and the Sunshine Lady Foundation founded by Doris Buffett, who NS4G honored as a special guest at this year’s ceremony.

Buffett, who proclaimed herself a philosopher rather than a philanthropist, “because that sounds stuck up,” brought the crowd in Raytheon Amphitheater to laughter on several occasions. She answered questions from the students on her giving philosophy, on taking risks with investments, and on drawing attention to marginalized communities who aren’t as easily identified as such.

“I like big issues,” said Buffett, “and then I like to operate on local levels.”

In introducing Buffett, Riccio noted how much of an advocate Buffett is for experiential philanthropy education programs such as NS4G.

“Doris knows the value of money, but she doesn’t think that it’s money that makes the difference,” Riccio explained. “She thinks it’s the people who make the difference when you invest in them. She has invested in us and has made it possible for us to invest in others.”

NS4G students also presented Buffett with a scrapbook which encapsulated the last five years of NS4G and the journey the program has taken with her support.
Diane MacGillivray, Senior VP of University Advancement, wrapped the program up with anecdotes on how philanthropy can affect individuals, as well as her observations on NS4G.

“I’m so very proud as an administrator for Northeastern University to have been affiliated with this program, to have watched it grow, to see what it has become, and what I’m so confident that it will be going forward.”

Pictured above: Philanthropist Doris Buffett, right, was the guest of honor at the 2013 NS4G Annual Awards Ceremony. Photo credit: Brooks Canaday.

– by Leslie Casey

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