Pendleton High School student Tony Hernandez, center, on May 18, 2022, at Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, Mission, presents a $5,000 grant to Kriss Dammeyer, founder and director of Made to Thrive.

Pendleton area students last month became community grant makers, providing almost $17,000 to charities and other organizations.

The students were taking part in CommuniCare, the Harold and Arlene CARE Foundation’s program now in its 25th year that turns normal fundraising on its head. Instead of raising money for one cause, the students receive money for grants and choose where to allocate their resources.

“They look at potential nonprofits and then conduct interviews with each of them,” said Shannon Carlson, director of marketing for the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. “Then they need to determine where to put more of the resources for the community.”

Students from Pendleton High School and Nixyaawii Community School met May 18 at Tamastslikt Cultural Institute near Pendleton to present checks to their grant recipients. Nixyaawii senior Keyen Signer participated in CommuniCare.

“This program honestly taught me how to look out for our community and consider all the concerns we came up with as a collective group with different perspectives,” the recent graduate said. “Communicating was a big key because it brought our class together to see what we really wanted.”

Singer and her classmates worked under the guidance of Zach Brandsen in their assigned CommuniCare classes. Much like their Pendleton partners, they picked different nonprofits they were interested in supporting and narrowed it down. But with a full class dedicated to the program, they presented and eliminated groups during school.

The class is something Singer has been hoping to join since her freshman year. And finally, as a senior, she presented a check totaling $7,000 to the three nonprofits of her class’ choice.

In total, the program distributed more than $683,000 to communities in the state. For Pendleton, this meant $16,815 to local nonprofits from Pendleton High and Nixyaawii.

The CARE Foundation guaranteed each group $7,500 for grant-making. Students could double those funds by raising an additional $750, which the foundation matched 10:1. Students had the option to reserve up to 25% of their CARE Foundation funds for in-school grants.

The year-long class and process is something Singer said she will never forget and one she wants other students to take.

“Yes, I definitely recommend it,” Singer said. “You can work with other students to create change, then figure out who to grant money to and learn how to network with these nonprofits.”

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