There may always be faces of need in our community, but the fifth graders at Longfellow Elementary School are the faces of hope for the future.
As the school year was winding down last month, the youngsters undertook an extensive research project into the needs of children and adults in distress in Mesa, and then made recommendations to philanthropist John Whiteman on where his annual contribution to Mesa United Way should be directed. Each fifth grader was entrusted with $100 of Whiteman's money to spend as they saw fit with various charitable organizations.
The annual exercise is called Kids in Philanthropy, and it has grown to include fifth and sixth graders at three Mesa elementary schools since Whiteman launched it several years ago to encourage young people to get involved in decisions that help people in need. Several other donors have joined Whiteman's effort in recent years, and additional contributors would allow Kids in Philanthropy to expand to more schools.
As part of the program, representatives of several of Mesa United Way's 28 partner agencies visit the schools and tell students about what their charities do. Then the students go on field trips to tour the agencies. The Longfellow students toured Sunshine Acres Children's Home, Paz de Cristo Community Center, and Save the Family Foundation.
Hatzel Escorcia said she decided to direct her $100 to Sunshine Acres. "The kids should be taken care of because they're our future," she said. Ivon Aispuro agreed, saying she was impressed with how donations are used at Sunshine Acres. Edwin Marquez said he was persuaded to direct his allocation to Sunshine Acres because it doesn't request or receive any government funding.