MSA juniors, Connor Benson and Jackson Hotchkiss, raised funds to send twenty foster children to summer camp in 2019. Over the past year, the duo worked with the NewGeneration Peacebuilders organization to develop an action plan to provide meaningful service to their community.
Their dedication produced remarkable outcomes. Read interview below to learn more.
Tell us about the project.
In the fall of 2018, we were able to join the NewGeneration Peacebuilders organization, which travels around the world educating today's youth about the importance of service to one's community and the broader influence one can make. After a series of workshops through NewGen, we were able to connect with mentors and develop a team consisting of us and four other high schoolers from around the Charlottesville area. Collectively, we decided to focus on the issue of the alienation, which many children in foster care experience, and ways we can help them to lead a more fulfilling life, while also decreasing the stigmatization surrounding them.
What was the next step in making your plan a reality?
We were able to finalize an idea, which was to fundraise money and sponsor children in the local foster care system to attend week-long summer camps. To do this, we began intensely networking with people in the foster care system in hopes to send at least twenty children in foster care to summer camps for free. We were able to partner with four local summer camps, who agreed to offer partial scholarships to the children.
Even with discounted rates for camps, you still had a lot of money to raise to send twenty foster children to camp. How did you do this?
For fundraising events, we helped put on the Miller School's annual Conquer the Hill Mountain Bike Race. In addition to this, we have a free screening of the feature film "Know How" at the Vinegar Hill Theatre in Downtown C'ville this Friday at 7PM. "Know How" is a movie made by five teenagers who have been through the foster care system, in hopes to spread awareness for the issues many of these kids face. After the screening of this movie, we will have a panel of foster care alum, and also coordinates of many of the local systems in place for these kids.
You garnered attention this spring at the annual TomTom Festival. Tell us about it.
We were able to be speakers at the TomTom Social Innovation Conference at the Paramount last week. We spoke about our project in front of nearly a thousand people and garnered a lot of support and awareness for our mission.
At the end of this month, we will present in front of a panel of judges from the NewGeneration Peacebuilders organization. Up for grabs is a $10,000 grant to turn our project into a nonprofit if we win the competition.
In addition to this, next year we’re planning to expand our program to provide a scholarship fund for sending children in foster care to college for free.