EPYCS club teaches students about community service
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” As Glenwood Springs High School seniors Lauren Maggiore and Jessica Drozd look back on their high school years, there’s one activity that stands out for both of these 18-year-olds: their participation in EPYCS, a club that teaches young people about community service, nonprofit organizations and philanthropy.
“This club is the best,” said Drozd, who serves as Glenwood High’s EPYCS vice president. “It really teaches you life skills. It’s real life, and it gives you a bigger picture than just what you see and learn at school.”
The Colorado Springs-based El Pomar Foundation created EPYCS, which stands for El Pomar Youth in Community Service, in 1991. The organization now works with 128 Colorado high schools, sending mentors out to 18 regions to work with students.
Glenwood High has had an EPYCS club for the past three years, and is part of the EPYCS Roaring Fork region comprised of Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Aspen High School and Eagle Valley High School as well. Both Maggiore and Drozd have been with group since it started.
EPYCS students have three teacher sponsors at school, and work with El Pomar mentor Laura Marlow. Math teacher Cathy Schroeder is one of the club sponsors.
“What’s so great about this program is it attracts kids with such great qualities,” she said. “It’s such a great venue to let kids grow up and learn leadership skills they’ll take with them. It just makes them shine.”
“I’ve always loved philanthropy,” said Maggiore, this year’s Glenwood High EPYCS president. “It’s such a strong part of my life. And being part of EPYCS has allowed me to understand a whole sector of society. I now see the importance nonprofits play in society and in communities.”
At the beginning of each school year, the group holds a meeting, which can draw up to 45 kids.
“It’s a really diverse group,” Maggiore said. “It’s not just kids with a 3.9 and above. We get anybody and everybody. You just have to be willing to try.”
Once officers are selected, EPYCS has all the high school students list their top three philanthropic interests.
“This year’s topics were education, youth issues and domestic violence prevention,” said Drozd.
El Pomar requires all EPYCS groups to raise $500. Glenwood does this through an annual community haunted house at Halloween, and through concession sales at high school athletic events.
Once the $500 is raised, El Pomar kicks in $7,500, and local nonprofits submit grants to the group.
“We learn how to conduct interviews with organization representatives,” Maggiore said. “At the same time, a lot of us are interviewing for colleges and scholarships so it’s really interesting to reverse those roles.”
Following the interview process, the group collectively decides what organizations will receive funding.
Schroeder said the students’ El Pomar experiences are excellent teaching tools.
“A lot of nonprofits have people with great big hearts but who don’t understand how to run an organization and ask for money,” she said. “El Pomar gives these kids a sense of responsibility and lets them see the effects of their decisions.”
Besides granting money to nonprofits, EPYCS also participates in community service projects.
One of those being developed with YouthZone is a program to include high school students on local nonprofit boards. Expected to be in place this summer, kids won’t be voting members of local boards but will be able to see first-hand what takes place at board meetings and how they can make a difference serving on a board.
“The kids will learn the rule of order, and how a board functions,” Maggiore said.
Maggiore’s only regret?
“I’m bummed I’m not going to be here to be part of it,” she said.
Instead, she and Drozd will have graduated, and will be attending the University of Colorado at Boulder with other EPYCS students, most likely continuing the philanthropic work they learned in high school.
“After their experiences here, they can see outside of simple capitalism,” Schroeder said. “It gives them great confidence.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
Glenwood Springs High School’s EPYCS group invites the public to attend its free EPYCS Awards presentation, from 5-7 p.m. Friday, May 7, at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood.
– Find out the local recipients of EPYCS grants
– Listen to presentation by EPYCS students
– Learn about area nonprofits’ work
RSVP to teacher sponsor Cathy Schroeder by May 5 by calling 384-5610.
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