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Beginning this fall, grade seven and eight students will be running the first-ever youth in philanthropy group at Plum Coulee School. YIPs are actually designed for students in grades nine to twelve, but because Plum Coulee doesn't have a high school, Principal Mary Eberling-Penner says special permission was required from the Thomas Sill Foundation to establish this program at the junior high level.

"The Plum Coulee Foundation also deserves a hats-off," added Eberling-Penner, "they were the ones who requested whether special permission could be given."

The YIP program will operate hand-in-hand with both the Plum Coulee Community Foundation and the Thomas Sill Foundation. Thomas Sill will provide $3,500 a year for three years, followed by matching contributions from the Plum Coulee Foundation the following three years. "When the opportunity came for ten thousand-five hundred dollars over three years, that was just too much of an opportunity to pass up," added Eberling-Penner.

This money will then be doled out to local non-profits groups and charities as chosen by the students. "The exciting thing is the students will be doing the research to find out about these, to work in these areas or get involved, and then make decisions about which ones are worthy for some of that money," she explained.

Because this junior high program will be unique, Eberling-Penner says some of their thinking has had to be tailored to fit the age bracket. "Some of what we're already thinking about is just how to teach and inform our students about some of the opportunities in our region and what a youth in philanthropy program is, what a (community) foundation is (and) what a charity is."

In fact, some of this work has already started with a visit from Hugh Arklie of the Thomas Sill Foundation. Eberling-Penner says Arklie talked about things like how a charity is defined by the Canada Revenue Agency and offered examples of possible donees. Students also got a glimpse of some of the mechanics behind a community foundation.

She describes the excitement level among the students.

At this point, Eberling-Penner says staff gauging the room for a handful of student leaders to help get them organized so they can hit the ground running in the fall.

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