SUNY Cortland Students Embrace Philanthropy

Large Group Shot
Students from the “Strategic Philanthropy & Nonprofits” course at SUNY Cortland along with class instructor, Dr. Barbara Barton (far right)

Families who participate in our Strengthening Families Program will be able to enjoy a family meal together thanks to a $3,360 Learning by Giving Award presented by SUNY Cortland students through the Strategic Philanthropy & Nonprofits course.

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FCS was presented with the grant award at a special ceremony. Pictured: Sarah Stendts (SUNY Student), Linda Barbin (FCS/CPR), Toni Yancey (SUNY Student, and Dr. Barbara Barton (SUNY)

Dr. Barbara Barton, an Assistant Professor in the SUNY Cortland Health Department, teaches the class that introduces students to the history, power and potential of philanthropy and develops their own philanthropic values and commitments. The Learning by Giving Foundation, created by Doris Buffet, provides the financial support that enables the grant making activities.

At the awards presentation, faculty and students spoke about their experiences with this unique philanthropic effort. “This is an example of civic engagement at its best,” said Dr. Mary McGuire, Director of the Institute for Civic Engagement at SUNY Cortland. Through this course, “students understand what the key problems are in the community,” she added.

SUNY Cortland student Ben Hobbs shared his perspective. “It’s the ignition I needed to get involved in the community,” he said. He spoke about the heated discussions they had as the class reviewed all the worthy grant applications and came to grips with the fact that only some would be funded. Hobbs, who graduated last week, said he was proud to be part of the class and hopes to volunteer on a non-profit board of directors and make his own donations to the Learning by Giving Foundation.

Fellow student Taylor Lynch said her passion in life is philanthropy. She has known for some time that she wants to help people and give back. “I learned real life skills from the class. It allowed me to learn about my passion and cultivate it,” she said. “Arguing, collaborating, and discussing….doing exactly what the Foundation wants…helped us understand how to give back to our communities.” “We’re learning by giving,” she added.

Parents and teens worked together on their Family Tree during a session of the Strengthening Families Program.

The Strengthening Families Program (SFP) is a nationally recognized parenting and family strengthening program for at-risk families with youth ages 10-14. The evidence-based program helps families build on their strengths and prepare for the exciting and challenging transition to adolescence and junior high. Program activities are designed to improve parenting skills and family relationships, reinforce lines of communication, and strengthen decision making skills that are essential in preventing teen substance abuse and other behavior problems. Parents learn how to show love and support while setting limits.

The Learning by Giving award will allow us to offer a healthy meal to families participating in the Strengthening Families seven week series offered during both fall and spring semesters of the upcoming school year.

At the start of the evening, families enjoy a meal together before youth and parents meet separately with facilitators to work on specific skills. Because Strengthening Families is offered in the early evening it would be challenging for families to have dinner before attending. The families served through the program are typically of low income and we are helping them meet the nutritional needs of their family and encouraging them to sit down and have a meal together.

Strengthening Families is a collaborative effort by the Prevention division of Family Counseling Services, Cortland County DSS and staff from their Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative, as well as staff from the Cortland County PINS Diversion Program. The Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES provides free meeting space for program activities.

Family Counseling Services was chosen from among local charitable organizations that submitted applications for a share of $10,000 in funding from the Boston-based Learning by Giving Foundation and the Cortland Community Foundation. The Foundations provided the funding to SUNY Cortland so students could learn about philanthropy by actually distributing the money to non-profit organizations that applied. Other awardees included the YWCA of Cortland, Lime Hollow Nature Center, and the Cortland Free Library. This is the fifth time that the Learning by Giving Foundation has supported the SUNY Cortland program and to date, $50,000 has been distributed to community organizations.