Teens Making A Difference

Guest blog by Ella Fried, Teen Board Member, The Jewish Fund

The drive to make a difference in the community is latent within so many of us, waiting for the opportunity to arise. This passion is exactly what the Jewish Fund Teen Board sets free from the hearts of teens across Metro Detroit. Passionate, committed teens are selected through an interview process and given the opportunity to make their mark in the community through philanthropy. The Teen Board works together to decide on a mission for which we are passionate. Then, we send grant requests to non profit organizations that align with that mission. After site visits and careful analysis of their proposals, we decide which organizations to fund. Through engaging activities and speakers, the Teen Board provides a space for teens to come together and learn valuable life skills; it fuels passion in teens by providing a vehicle for impacting the community. 


Not only does the Teen Board provide an opportunity for teens to create change, it also employs teens with lasting skills that will help to create change into the future. For instance, throughout the year, multiple guest speakers educated the Teen Board on various topics, such as interview skills for the interviewer as well as the interviewee. Teen Board members gain experience with both. Being interviewed is one of the first steps to becoming a Teen Board member, and once on the board, board members complete site visits at which we interview organizations with a group to evaluate them for funding. Interviewing is a crucial skill that will stay with us long after our time on the Teen Board is complete. In addition, another speaker provided the Teen Board with the skill of interpreting and evaluating proposals. This skill is integral for the Teen Board to decide which organizations to fund, and board members will continue to use this skill into the future. 


Furthermore, speakers lectured on the topics that pertained to our mission statement–mental health and antisemitism–followed by an insightful conversation and questions on the topic. Board members are also given the opportunity to work in small groups to practice skills like consensus. This process ensures that all board members are given a voice in all decisions. By presenting our ideas to the group, we also gained public speaking and leadership skills. Moreover, empathy and seeing the world through others’ eyes are valuable skills that were furthered by the Teen Board experience. One activity that has stayed with me is the poverty simulation, “Spent”. It opened my eyes and furthered my understanding of poverty in a way that I had never considered, expanding my viewpoint and my capacity to empathize with others. The multitude of skills gained through the Teen Board equips teens with the necessary tools to continue their journey in philanthropy.


The Teen Board also fosters an environment in which Jewish teens who are passionate about influencing the community can come together and make real change guided by our Jewish values. A group is so much more influential than a single person, and when each of our passions and ideas comes together, we are able to work as a group to create powerful change. This provides teens with the opportunity to participate in social action and begin their journey in philanthropy early. As we worked together to choose our focus and create our mission statement, each of us was given the opportunity to share our voice. We discussed topics about which we were passionate, and through the process of consensus, we listened to every board member and all came to agree on mental health and antisemitism as prevalent issues in our community today that we wanted to impact. Because we focused on what we as a group were passionate about, each of us was motivated, enthusiastic, and driven throughout the grantmaking process. As I read through proposals and attended site visits, I found myself becoming excited about the impact the Teen Board could have. We contributed toward suicide prevention, increasing mental health resources for marginalized communities, and more. In doing so we were given the opportunity to effect change in the community in areas that were meaningful to us and aligned with Jewish values, such as Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), Kehillah (community), and Tzedek (fairness). This drive to create change is not contained solely within our time on the Teen Board. The innate passion for social action within each of us is activated and invigorated in the Teen Board, and many of us are inspired to continue working with organizations to which we gave grants. This passion for philanthropy and making a difference is core to the Teen Board and to the Jewish Fund as a whole. 


The Teen Board gives teens the opportunity to share their voices and work together to impact the community. It equips teens with skills to continue philanthropy into the future, and it ignites the passion within teens to create lasting change in their communities. Each one of us has the power to harness the passion within ourselves to impact our families, our communities, and our world. How will you activate your passion to create change? To learn more about the Jewish Fund Teen Board, go to our website, and check us out on instagram @tjfteenboard.