This is a guest blog post by Boston College students Laura Hymes and Trent Bielen.
Each year at Boston College, Professor Paul Schervish, an expert on studies of wealth and giving, teaches a class called Introduction to Philanthropy. This past fall we had the pleasure of taking his class, and through it, we were fortunate enough to find VSA Massachusetts and to make a donation to their COOL Schools Program.
As we learned that the meaning of philanthropy can be found both informally and formally through relationships of giving and receiving in everyday life, our class was subsequently gaining the knowledge to make an actual charitable donation. Thanks to generous donations made by Doris Buffet's Sunshine Lady Foundation, our class was given $10,000 so students may take a share of that money and donate to the organization of their choice. The grant requires the gift be made to formal chartered charities within the Boston Metropolitan Area. We, Trent Bielen and Laura Hymes, collaborated on this donation because we held a mutual interest in the principles underlying the COOL Schools Program.
We both were very fortunate to grow up with outstanding educations that allowed us to get us where we are today at Boston College. We are extremely grateful for those opportunities and we recognize that without them, our lives could be very different. Education is the ultimate enabler for a positive future and VSA's COOL Schools help those who would otherwise struggle. Trent has spent the last two years tutoring a high school boy once a week. Although his intelligence is clear, Trent recognizes many skills and some basic knowledge that his tutee failed to learn. He picks up concepts well and quickly, but struggles to connect and bring in past knowledge. Trent believes that had his tutee had better schools earlier in his life, his many of his current struggles with academics would not exist.
Also, we both have passions for the arts, recognizing their importance for intellectual curiosity, self-discovery and reflection, and encouragement of independent thought. Laura, especially, comes from a musical family where she has seen first hand the ability of art to integrate people from all different walks of life. Without the arts, the COOL School inclusion classroom model would not have the same impact and value that it currently has.
Professor Schervish's class taught us more than just philanthropy, it taught us about life. Not only did we learn about the nature of love and care that go into philanthropic work and donations, but also we assessed the love and care in our own lives. This led us to understand the fundamental values of philanthropy grounded in philia or "friendship love". It was through this discovery that we were challenged to discern our vocations and collaborate with other students in order to make smart and meaningful donations to organizations we cared about.
Through a great deal of research and self-exploration, we found that VSA Massachusetts' COOL School Programs was a caring and successful organization that fit our passions, and in turn, our philanthropic vocation. We visited the Open Door Gallery, and spoke with Kati Blair, Director of Education, Communication and Development at VSA, and we were immediately hooked on their mission. After going through several other possibilities, we knew there was not another option: we needed to donate to VSA. As a result, at the end of the semester, we were able to donate $1,333 to VSA Massachusetts and more specifically the COOL Schools.
Looking back on the experience, we were extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity. We learned about our lives and the events that have shaped us into the people we are today. Without this class, we never would have found our passions, our philanthropic vocation, and more important, VSA. This was truly an amazing experience, and it could not have happened without VSA Massachusetts.
Laura Hymes and Trent Bielen