From left, Alondra Esquivel, 11, Courtney Eichenlaub, 11, Alexa Cortez, 9, and Brittney Miller, 11, enjoy a party at Washington Elementary School Friday to celebrate a program in which they decided which organizations would receive grants totaling $5,000. - Mail Tribune / Jim Craven

Kids are sure it's money well spent

MEDFORD — A dozen students at Washington Elementary School got some firsthand experience at charitable giving this week.

Composed of third- through sixth-grade students, the group was participating in the Pacific Gas and Electric Company Foundation's "Community 101" program, geared toward empowering students to award grant monies to deserving community organizations.

An anonymous local donor provided $5,000 in funding and gave the students the opportunity to distribute the funds.

Students considered dozens of potential causes to support — families were even asked to fill out surveys — then narrowed their focus to supporting organizations that deal with drug addiction and child abuse.

"They did everything themselves," said third-grade teacher Damien Hurley.

"They even decided against two grants — one because it didn't fit their goal and another because it was turned in late. They're pretty excited they were able to make a difference like this."

Of seven applicants, the students selected Addictions Recovery Center, United Way, SODA, Community Health Center and OnTrack Inc.

Programs for which grants were requested ranged from a fundraising effort for a detox room at ARC to a program providing drug education videos for kids to another geared at helping low-income families obtain copies of birth certificates for medical purposes.

Sixth-grader Chloe Christiansen said students took the process of awarding the grants seriously.

"We interviewed the different organizations all by ourselves and then, a couple weeks ago, we looked at all the applications they sent in," said the 11-year-old.

"We looked at what they would use the grant for and how much money they wanted. Some people wanted it for programs for the schools, so we liked that. It was pretty tough to decide because we wanted to help everyone but we agreed to only help for things that were for helping people with drug problems ... and for kids."

Twelve-year-old Jonny Lawson said managing such a significant amount of money was a valuable experience for the students who participated.

"It was great because we got to learn how to deal with money and to do stuff to help our community," said the boy.

"Some of it was surprising, like I was really surprised with ARC because they were trying to do the detox room. It's really important for them to detox people."

United Way Executive Director Dee Anne Everson, whose organization received a $500 grant to support programs related to children in need, said both receiving a needed grant and seeing students experience something positive was "an incredibly humbling experience."

"They came here and interviewed me and asked about what we do and what we'd use the money for. They were very thorough."

Having never "spent" $5,000 before, Chloe said she felt students had chosen well how to dole out the money.

"It felt really good to be able to help people even though we're still young," she said.

"Kids usually don't get handed $5,000 and get to figure out what to do with it."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

Share This Story