How one family’s YIP experience inspired more than just their kids
We sat down with the Guttilla Family to learn a little bit more about Youth in Philanthropy’s impact on not just their kids, but their entire family. Here’s what they had to say (hint: the program has made a huge difference).
Hi! We would love to get to know the Guttilla Family. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Nick and Carolyn: We live in Needham with our three daughters, Kate (grade 11), Elizabeth (grade 8), and Nora (grade 4) and our dog, Scout, and rabbit, Ella. Kate, Elizabeth, and Nora attend Needham Public Schools. Our girls enjoy cross country running, skiing, dance, and soccer. Nick is an attorney in downtown Boston and Carolyn, also an attorney, teaches at MassBay Community College. As a family, we enjoy traveling, trying new restaurants, and watching movies!
How did you first learn about Youth in Philanthropy (YIP)? There is more than one person in your family that participated in YIP. Who are they and when did they participate?
Carolyn: I learned about YIP through my work at MassBay. I was participating in a grant writing workshop and a colleague mentioned the Foundation for MetroWest and their Youth in Philanthropy program. I had never heard of youth philanthropy before and was intrigued. I read about the YIP program on the Foundation’s website. Nick and I discussed it and thought it would be a great learning experience for Kate who was about to start high school. In true teenager fashion, she said she didn’t want to attend because she wouldn’t know anyone and wasn’t sure what it would be about. We said she needed to try it. To Kate’s credit, she went with a good attitude and came home the first night and said to me “you were right, Mom”. As a parent of teenagers, that’s not something I hear very often!
Kate: I was hesitant to try YIP because I didn’t know anyone doing the program, but I attended the first session and the other kids were really nice and what we were going to be doing during the 17 weeks sounded interesting. When the program ended, I wanted to continue with YIP so I applied to be an Instructor’s Assistant for the YIP Summer Institute.
Elizabeth: My sister really loved the YIP program. She would talk about what they were doing and it sounded interesting. I liked how she meet kids from other schools and learn about nonprofits. When I heard they had a summer program for middle school students, I wanted to try it so my parents signed me up! I am hoping to do the full YIP program when I start high school this fall.
What made you excited about YIP and what makes it unique?
Carolyn: As an educator, I like the learning aspect of the program. YIP is like a college course, but they make it fun and relatable for high school students. The YIP program is experiential learning at its best. Through YIP, Kate (and Elizabeth on a more limited scale) learned about nonprofits by evaluating and visiting actual nonprofits. Kate would tell us how she might like the goal of a particular nonprofit, but perhaps that nonprofit wasn’t well organized or the nonprofit didn’t have a strong track record of leadership, so she and her group decided the grant money would have more impact at a different nonprofit.
Nick: I like how YIP teaches its participants about the multiple aspects of giving, including gaining an understanding of philanthropy as a business. Kate learned how there is a limited amount of grant funds available, which required her to learn how to assess and evaluate multiple worthy causes, including analyzing how effective each organization would be at accomplishing its goals. She had to learn about revenue (donations), develop budgets, and decide how to allocate resources (i.e. determining which organizations to give to). Those skills will not only help her give back effectively, they are important skills in business and life.
We believe there are many takeaways from YIP. Takeaways that last a lifetime. What would be your #1 takeaway from the program?
Kate: My biggest takeaway from YIP is that as a teenager, I have the ability to impact my community in ways other than volunteering. YIP taught me how to handle money effectively, and evaluate nonprofits so that it can make the largest impact. I think for many people my age, they see the only way to give back to their community is through volunteering. YIP has expanded my thinking to encompass even more meaningful ways to help my community.
How are you implementing YIP in your life now?
Carolyn: Inspired by my daughters’ YIP experience, a friend and I applied for a large grant from the Needham Educational Foundation to help Needham middle school students better understand how digital communication can be misinterpreted. In January, we were awarded $15,000 to hire an expert in the field of adolescent social media use who will develop a program that will train Needham middle school teachers to work with the 900 7th and 8th grade students in Needham. I’ve enjoyed sharing about the project with my daughters and getting their input.
Thank you for your continued support of the program! Let’s dive a little deeper. Why do you support YIP?
Nick and Carolyn: Supporting YIP packs a double punch – not only are we supporting a program that continues to provide our daughters with a unique learning opportunity, but by supporting YIP we’re also supporting the great local nonprofits that the YIP participants choose to support.
Kate, you’ve stepped up into a leadership role with the Foundation for MetroWest, joining the inaugural YIP Jr. Board. What has that experience been like for you?
Kate: Ever since I finished the YIP program, I had been looking for ways to continue my experience as part of a youth philanthropy team. The year after YIP, I joined Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC), a country-wide program that connected teens with the mission of involving more students in philanthropy activities in their communities. I had a great experience on this board, but was looking for other ways to continue philanthropy outreach in my local community. I was very excited when I heard the Foundation for MetroWest was creating a brand new YIP Junior Board! As a member of the Junior Board, I get to continue reaching out to the community to expose teens to philanthropy while also supporting the YIP program. I also get to be involved with Foundation for MetroWest in a deeper way! The program and the people at the Foundation made YIP such a positive experience for me and I was excited to be in that type of environment again. As a member of the Board and the Fundraising Committee, I am tasked with helping to raise money that will support the YIP program.
What does your family philanthropy look like throughout the year? Could you give us some examples of ways your family implements giving back into your everyday life? Why is that so important to your family?
Carolyn: As a family, we take a three-prong approach to giving back: connecting one on one with people, learning about nonprofits so we can make an impact throughout our lifetime, and donating money.
Helping in any way is great, but we want our girls to see the difference that a one on one connection can make. Kate has been a certified animal-assisted therapy team through Tufts Paws for People since she was 12. She and Ella, our rabbit, visit assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, and psychiatric facilities on a monthly basis and connect with people one on one. Elizabeth participates in the Best Buddies Program at her middle school. She spent part of each Saturday this school year volunteering at an assisted living facility in our town.
Nora is only 10, but she is learning about giving back by requesting donations for the animal shelter in place of birthday gifts and donating toys and clothes. Nora was hesitant about not getting birthday presents from her friends. She brought the donations to the animal shelter so she could see the impact her donations have on the animals. She felt so good about herself leaving the animal shelter. She also learns a lot about giving back by listening to her sisters.
Giving money is also an important aspect of helping these organizations survive and thrive. As a Junior Board member, Kate was responsible for fundraising throughout the year. Kate saw how difficult it can be to fundraise. She discovered that there is power in networking – she reached out to family and friends to ask for donations and was surprised at how generous people were. As a family, we donate to a variety of organizations that are important to our family.
Elizabeth: In our family, there’s an expectation to give back. I know I’m lucky and helping out makes me grateful for what I have. When I volunteer at the assisted living facility, I am able to form bonds with the elderly residents. I always leave feeling grateful and like I made a small difference in their day.
Any last words? I am sure we are missing something!
Nick and Carolyn: The understanding of the multiple aspects of philanthropy that our daughters have learned and will continue to learn through YIP is invaluable and will set them on a course of giving back throughout their lives.
Our daughters are very fortunate. We expect them to work hard and give back. Giving back through YIP and other volunteer activities helps them see there’s a world beyond their own. This makes them appreciate what they have and encourages them to work hard to make a difference.