Students Learn About the Hard Choices of Philanthropy

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Public policy class awards a total of $40,000 in grants to Upper Valley nonprofits.

A student speaks at a podium in a classroom
Luke Cuomo ’20, right, announces a $5,000 grant to the Upper Valley Adaptation Workshop along with fellow public policy student Eitan Darwish ’21 as, from left, Alex Jaccaci and Alice Ely stand to accept the donation on behalf of the nonprofit. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Students from the new public policy class “Leadership in Civil Society: Philanthropy in the Nonprofit Sector” awarded a total of $40,000 in grants to eight Upper Valley nonprofits Thursday, capping off months of work identifying and narrowing down proposals from some 30 area organizations.

Ronald Shaiko, senior fellow and associate director of curricular and research programs for the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, designed the class with support from the Center for Social Impact and a $40,000 grant from the national Once Upon a Time Foundation’s Philanthropy Lab, which supports philanthropy education at U.S. colleges and universities.

President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 attended the grant presentation ceremony, hailing the class as an outstanding illustration of the value and power of experiential learning. He congratulated the students for undertaking the challenging real-world task of figuring out how to have a positive impact on the community through the distribution of limited resources.

 “I am sure you learned a lot about the complexities of the world in this course—including the challenge of setting priorities when constrained resources require you to choose amongst a number of worthy things,” President Hanlon said.

Eitan Darwish ’21, a student in the program, said he had taken classes on grant writing, but being able to experience the process of evaluating funding requests was particularly eye opening.

“How many 20-year-olds get a chance to evaluate grants? We were essentially a foundation and we got to be the board of the foundation, and that’s pretty remarkable,” Darwish said.

Shaiko said that the class engaged the students in a process that they couldn’t see for themselves unless they actually did it.

“They had to make choices between really laudable projects. They were all strong cases, and having to address these hard questions I think is really valuable,” Shaiko said. “These are the kind of things that they are going to come up against when they get out in the real world. The more we can expose them to that before they step outside of Dartmouth, the better off I think they will be.”

The class issued the following grants:

  • Dismas House—a resource in Hartford, Vt., that provides men and women just out of prison with an affordable, supportive place to live, received $5,000.
  • Good Neighbor Health Clinic, which provides free medical and dental care for low-income adult residents of the Upper Valley, received $4,998.
  • The Montshire Museum of Science, a hands-on science museum in Norwich, Vt., received $4,365.
  • TLC Family Resource Center, which promotes health and development initiatives for at-risk families in Sullivan County and lower Grafton county, received $5,000.
  • Twin Pines Housing Trust, a nonprofit developer and promoter of affordable housing in the Upper Valley, received $5,000.
  • The Upper Valley Adaptation Workshop/Vital Communities, which seeks to build climate resilient communities in the Upper Valley through research, information sharing, and education, received $5,000.
  • Valley Court Diversion Program, which provides alternatives to incarceration for juvenile and adult offenders in Windsor County, Vt., Sullivan County, N.H. and parts of Grafton County, N.H., received $4,950.
  • Vermont Institute of Natural Science, a nonprofit environmental education, research, and avian rehabilitation organization headquartered at the VINS Nature Center in Quechee, Vt., received $5,000.

William Platt can be reached at

Bill Platt