ALPHARETTA, Ga. — A group of area students is bridging the gap between teenagers and community service.
Georgia Youth Leaders was founded in March to help those who want to help others. It assists student service organizations gain strength and navigate the bureaucracy of becoming a certified nonprofit.
Alpharetta High School senior Kruthik Ravikanti and Deesha Panchal, a sophomore at Etowah High School, launched Georgia Youth Leaders after discovering a gap between their passions and available volunteer opportunities. The organization, open to those aged 12 to 22, seeks to grow and inspire a generation of students to create meaningful change.
Panchal and Ravikanti met through GivingPoint, an Atlanta-based organization that connects nonprofits with high school students. GivingPoint hosts a workshop called the Social Innovators Academy that teaches how to launch social impact projects, awareness campaigns and nonprofit organizations.
Panchal noticed on Instagram that a number of community service groups founded by high school students lacked a legal nonprofit — 501(c)(3) — designation. She reached out to Ravikanti to discuss the common challenges faced when starting a community service organization. The discussion led to creation of an umbrella group that would sponsor other student-led projects.
“A lot of people want to start (organizations), but do not know how. What they need is kind of a guideline of what steps to take first,” Panchal said.
They identified significant hurdles to service-minded students, such as obtaining legal status as a nonprofit, networking with mentors and companies and rallying a strong volunteer base.
Earning license as a 501(c)(3) can be important to service organizations because it opens the door to acquiring grants that can help put ideas in motion. The path is lengthy between incorporation in Georgia and earning the tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. The typical nonprofit may spend $500 just to do business. Securing the license is no guarantee for success. Grant applications can be equally arduous.
A $1,000 grant from We Care, We Connect, We Share, an Atlanta philanthropic organization, was the impetus for Georgia Youth Leaders’ creation. A portion of the grant was used to pay for its 501(c)(3) license, which arrived Oct. 2.
Georgia Youth Leaders has sprouted eight daughter organizations focusing on issues including human trafficking awareness, community cleanups, leveraging technology to connect dementia patients with family, promoting literacy and education, and aiding children in foster care. Money is distributed to the most active organizations after submitting a request.
“Over time, our expectation is that these daughter organizations will gain their own independence and they will apply for their own 501(c)(3) and move out of GYL,” Ravikanti said.
Each organization is assigned an auditor, who reviews a balance sheet to confirm money is spent as intended. The projects are further reviewed during Georgia Youth Leaders meetings.
A training module called “Student Space” is being developed to include videos from students sharing how they created community projects and how to navigate obtaining nonprofit status.
“When students pursue their own passions in community service, that just brings a new spin on what it could be,” Ravikanti said.
Once complete, he hopes local school systems will incorporate this method for community service.
More information about Georgia Youth Leaders can be found at website www.georgiayouthleaders.org.The website includes options to donate, network and learn about ongoing projects.