At 21 years old, Terrance Hamilton has already led a rough life. It was a life of homelessness and poverty, which eventually became a life of violence and gang activity that gave him an intimate understanding of the juvenile justice system.
Now a student at Tacoma Community College, Hamilton is proud to say he has turned his life around as a result of meeting pivotal, positive people who not only believed in him, but also believed he could make a difference for others. Greater Tacoma Community Foundation President and CEO Rose Lincoln Hamilton is one of these people. She approached him to be part of the foundation’s burgeoning Youth Philanthropy Board, which was founded to give young people a voice in the programs that directly impact their lives.
“She gave me the biggest opportunity of my life,” Hamilton said. “It’s not easy growing up without parents, but now there are so many positive people in my corner – and I never thought I would be able to say that in my life.”
Hamilton is serving on the 2012/2013 Youth Philanthropy Board, and is well on his way to accomplishing his goal of becoming an advocate for youth leadership.
Last year was the inaugural year for the Youth Philanthropy Board, which seeks to find members who have experienced hardship in their lives – those youth who are not necessarily the usual suspects. “We wanted to connect with youth with potential, but also those who may have experienced some of the issues we hope to reduce in the community,” said Lincoln Hamilton.
The 12-member board spent a year undergoing leadership training focusing on the importance of working as team, and the role philanthropy plays in creating a stronger community. The team also took time to evaluate the root cause of violence and its impact on youth. Based on these experiences, members of the board reviewed grant applications and made recommendations to the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation regarding programs that deserve funding.
During an Oct. 20 Youth Philanthropy Board grant reception, three organizations were formally recognized for their contributions to the community and received grant funding. The 2011 grantees include Fab-5’s L.I.F.E. Arts Education Program, which involves 10 weeks of arts immersion workshops to help youth develop their creative voices. Peace Community Center’s Hilltop Scholars program also received a grant to fund its academic tutoring and mentoring program. Camp Fire USA’s Teen Outreach program was also awarded funding for its program, which reaches out to youth experiencing homelessness.
“Our goal is to develop an ongoing cadre of young people who can help build a better community, and have the leadership skills and ability to talk about what’s happening in the community,” Lincoln Hamilton said. “The older we get, the less connected we are with young people. That’s why it’s important to hear the perspective of the kids whose lives have been touched by these programs.”
During the reception, several board members performed artistic expressions related to the themes of empowerment, self-esteem and healthy choices.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I joined the board, but when we realized that youth violence is a big problem, and we knew we need to intervene,” said board member Eslie Penuelas.
The idea of a Youth Philanthropy Board came about as a result of a violent incident in 2006 that occurred on Pacific Avenue, when a young man was shot and killed. “This event brought the community together to discuss how to build mutual respect between young people and adults in an effort to combat violence,” Lincoln Hamilton said.
Board member Darryl Crews said the foundation is helping board members plant much-needed seeds of hope. “Adding a younger philanthropic voice to the foundation is important,” he said. “They equipped us with the capital resources to give organizations the funding they need to connect to the power of what the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation is trying to do.”