Giving Back to Those Who Give Back

New Student Philanthropy Fund Chooses Two Area Nonprofits for Grants

The class: standing, from left, are Jimmy Bulmer, Patrick Dodson, Pamela Skripak (executive director of the Institute for Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development), Philip Kane, Aubrey Fitzpatrick, Aimee Cuevas, Somya Singh, Elisa Donato, Madeline Kelly, Rachel Bournique, Megan Trigg. Sitting, from left: Natalie Donahoe, Ellie von Wellsheim (founder and executive director of The MoonCatcher Project), Ciara Breslin, Assistant Professor Susan Appe.

Top photo: Darian Henry and Bhawin Suchak, co-founders of YouthFX. Bottom: Ellie von Wellsheim, founder of The MoonCatcher Project. (Photos by Patrick Dodson)

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 23, 2019) — Students in a graduate course on philanthropy turned learning into action by funding two local nonprofit organizations.

The newly established Student Philanthropy Fund launched this past spring out of Assistant Professor Susan Appe’s Philanthropy and Civil Society graduate course at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. The fund, housed at UAlbany’s Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development, selected The MoonCatcher Project in Schenectady and Youth FX in Albany as its inaugural winning organizations.

Throughout the semester, Appe guided students through the process of researching organizations and choosing the winners. The class compiled a list of nonprofits, looking at their mission statements, projects, finances and community partnerships, and then narrowed them down based worthiness of cause, accountability and integrity, transparency, impact of donation, effectiveness and diversity.

The funds were divided into two categories ⎯ $500 for an organization committed to international work and $1,000 for an organization providing services and activities to the Capital District community. In the end, the students awarded $500 to MoonCatcher and $1,000 to Youth FX.

Winning Projects

The MoonCatcher Project is an international organization based in Schenectady that creates reusable, washable menstrual management kits for distribution in disadvantaged communities worldwide, as well as offering reproductive health and menstrual management classes. In these communities, the taboo topic of menstruation, low income and lack of access to feminine products results in girls missing school and even dropping out altogether.

“We chose The MoonCatcher Project because we felt as though our donation would have a significant impact in working towards a humanitarian issue occurring internationally at a local level,” said the class’s collective report. “The topic of menstruation is one that is often not talked about, even in America, and as a class we saw the need for this support for young girls to help them be successful. We admired the fact that the organization is all volunteer run, and all of the hard work that they put towards their mission.”

The local impact winner, Youth FX, works to empower young people from historically underserved communities by teaching digital filmmaking and media production. Their free programming primarily works with people ages 10-24 in the South End, West Hill and Arbor Hill neighborhoods of Albany to produce documentary films. The process focuses on collaboration and building leadership skills, while teaching advanced digital media techniques. YouthFX films have been selected for screenings at some of the world’s leading film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival and Woodstock Film Festival.

“Youth FX’s record of proven success, strong alumni network, and ability to create social change made them stand out among the rest,” the class wrote. “Providing students with technical skills, developing character and leadership skills, and learning how to share stories are all experiences that Youth FX provides for Albany’s youth. One of the most impressive aspects of this organization is that it is led by staff and volunteer alumni of their programs.”

About the Fund

The Student Philanthropy Fund’s mission is to contribute to students' preparation as public service professionals, to develop philanthropists with integrity, and to build relationships with and fund nonprofits across UAlbany’s communities.

The fund is supported by private donations from generous alumni of Rockefeller College and other local community members. You can support the fund with a donation.

The Student Philanthropy Fund also will be integrated into an undergraduate course at Rockefeller College this fall. For more information, email Susan Appe.

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