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Riverdale kids do stupendous job running nonprofit

by: CLIFF NEWELL Very happy to be members of the Non-profit Youth Leadership Project at Riverdale High School are (front row, left to right) Isabel Jones, Milly Syck, Jennifer Mick, Etta Louise O’Donnell, (back row) Lucy Parkin, Lucas Manzano, Cole Burchiel, and Collin Styringe.

Turning over the running of a nonprofit to a bunch of inexperienced kids might seem like a shot in the dark.

But not to Della Rae.

The Lake Oswego woman's Donors Resource has been a groundbreaker from the start, and so she totally believed a carefully chosen group of students from Riverdale High School would succeed when she gave them control of the nonprofit's operation last March.

It is so nice when sky-high confidence is rewarded.

'It was a trial program, but I knew these youths were bright,' Rae said. 'To see them operate this project has been so incredible to watch.

'What I've realized is that these students have given me the opportunity to step back and see a much larger picture. So many good things have happened.'

Rae is as bold and innovative as she is charitable, and she had designed Donors Resource to acquire donations of household and office items and distribute them to people who badly needed them.

Her project was a success, and it attracted attention from across the nation. But Rae thought there had to be a better way, and the Riverdale students have provided it, filling all the roles necessary for a nonprofit - in marketing, project coordination and development. In just a few months, the nine talented students in the Nonprofit Youth Leadership Project have scored some impressive gains, including:

* A 30 percent increase in donations;

* Greatly increased public visibility;

* Creation of a video that is expected to be a model for other nonprofit organizations.

All this doesn't include rave reviews from the community like, 'Tell the students they really did a stupendous job with this.'

Of course, the students have gained tremendously from the experience.

'I wanted to help in whatever way I could,' said Lucas Manzano, a foreign exchange student from Spain who was eager to learn about his host country. 'What better experience could I get than helping others?'

That sums up the attitude of all of the students involved with the project. At the start they weren't exactly sure what they were getting into, but they have found the experience to be greatly rewarding, something that will influence their futures.

'This has been a cool experience,' said deputy director Isabel Jones. 'Not every high school student gets to experience something like this.'

'It has been good work experience and a good way to connect to the community,' Lucy Parkin said.

'I was invited more or less by Etta Lou (O'Donnell-King, who designed the project logo),' Cole Burchiel said. 'Now I'm really excited to be part of this. It's a way to benefit myself and others. Working with an actual living company is something you don't get to do very often in high school.'

The top job is held by executive director Jennifer Mick, who often leads by enthusiasm.

'I heard about Donors Resource and I loved it,' Mick said. 'I have met so many amazing people and learned so many business skills. Working on this will really affect my college decision.'

A good example? You bet.

'This project is absolutely a model for other schools,' Rae said. 'It also has great promise to impact the sustainability of nonprofit organizations as well.'

Other students in the Nonprofit Youth Leadership Project are Milly Syck, Collin Styringe, Maya Volk and Elliott Capek.

For more information go to DonorsResource.org . Be sure to watch the interns' video, called 'We Are Changing.'