At first glance, this sounds like a typical homework in a high school English class. Students at Belmont Hill School are asked to think about people they encounter in their daily lives who may need financial support, and record a short video article about them and why they are important in their lives. Then comes the unusual part: some students will receive a check for $1,000 and give it to the person of their choice.
The money came from an unusual charity project called Text, Operated by the Lefkowski Family Foundation. The program is national, and anyone between the ages of 14 and 18 can nominate someone to receive this $1,000 check, and then the teenager must deliver the check. It has been in operation for several years, and every year, the foundation issues hundreds of such checks, totaling nearly one million dollars in the entire process.
The admitted students will receive a check and send it to the consignee, and ask their friends to accompany them when giving the gift, and use their mobile phone camera to photograph the surprise gift.Videos all appear on VING YouTube channel, Sometimes local TV news staff will follow.
The students are usually nervous, and the recipients are usually confused by the whole concept and are happy to learn that the student took the trouble to find the funds for them. Charlie Dole, a teacher at Belmont Hills, said that this is an all-male school. His private school is just outside of Boston, and he was one of the first teachers to make it part of the annual curriculum.
So is this just some kind of gimmick or publicity gimmick? What is the impact of turning a teenager into a sudden philanthropist for a day?
We addressed these issues in this week’s EdSurge podcast. We contacted Liz Lefkofsky, the founder of the Dollar and the VING project and president of the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, to discuss what they learned from this work—especially under the pressure of the global pandemic.
“It has been a difficult year for so many people,” Lefkowski said. “It’s awesome to give these kids a chance to do something good at this most difficult time.”
She said she knows that $1,000 will not solve any long-term or systemic problems in the lives of those who get the money, even though her foundation makes other more traditional donations to deal with larger problems.
“I wish I could fix all [their problems],” she said, but $1,000 seems to be “the correct number from teenagers to adults. “
The point is to inspire students to look at the people around them more comprehensively and think about how to help others, even if they don’t have anyone funding the cash gift.
A friend of Lefkowski’s said that she recently heard that a young man saw a man in a wheelchair outside near Coney Island asking for money during a heavy rain. The young man got out of the car and gave him a golf umbrella, saying that people in wheelchairs needed it more than him.
“It doesn’t have to be a thousand dollars,” she added. “We are talking to teenagers and teaching them some empathy.”
Listen to the complete episode-including recordings of students conducting surprise checks on people in need.listen Apple Podcast, Overcast, Spotify, Suturing device, Google Play Music, Or wherever you listen to the podcast, or use the player on this page.