The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) program is designed to help area high schoolers understand what philanthropy is and how, through philanthropy, they can have a positive impact on their communities. Annie Crawford was recruited to join YAC during her sophomore year at Blue Springs High School.

Walking into her first meeting, she wasn’t sure what to think. Here was this giant group of her peers sitting around tables, chatting, around 100 of them, representing schools from across Eastern Jackson County. It was more than a little intimidating. She could have easily turned around and chose not to walk into that room. But she did go in, and without knowing it, changed the trajectory of her life.

As a Senior, Annie took on the extra responsibility of being a co-leader for the Blue Springs team. As a Team Leader, she had additional expectations and responsibilities. She ensured her Blue Springs team stayed up to date with all the YAC events and fundraisers, attended meetings regularly, and participated in Truman Heartland’s competitive grants process.

What seems to have made the biggest impression on her was the chance to talk with nonprofit professionals about their work during the YAC competitive grant site visits. Each year YAC students tour selected nonprofits requesting grant funding for programs serving children and youth. The students tour the facilities and then report what they learned to the Grants Committee. Their reports are taken very seriously by their adult partners and directly impact grant allotments. “YAC connected us with organizations that are doing amazing things. We got to talk to people that do this incredible work every day. It felt real,” Annie explained. “It was definitely a unique experience, one that most high school students don’t get.”

Once she graduated from high school, Annie went to college at UMKC. Like most college students, her career path changed more than once. She finally landing on a degree in English and graduated in 2018. She planned to take a year or so, work part-time, and travel. She visited New York City, Rocky Mountain National Park, Ireland, and Jordan. She was organizing her next adventure to Peru and looked forward to landing her first real job upon her return. Life was going just as planned.

Enter 2020.

The idea of going to work full-time came to a screeching halt in the Spring of 2020. The pandemic raged, and Annie stayed with her mom, waiting, like the rest of us, for life to start again. In this time of limbo, she stumbled upon information about AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps VISTA program is a national service program designed to alleviate poverty through nonprofit capacity building. Vista volunteers work in fundraising, grant writing, research, and volunteer recruitment, preparing young adults for a life of service in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. Remembering her time with YAC and the feeling she had listening to all those nonprofit professionals talk about their life-changing work made Annie realize VISTA was the perfect opportunity.

Annie is currently serving at Drumm Farm Center for Children on the Donor Engagement team. Drumm Farm helps children build successful lives by providing programs and services that support family environments, emotional and physical well-being, educational opportunities, and personal growth. Annie has been busy sending donation acknowledgments, assisting on social media, taking pictures, and writing the agency newsletter--gaining valuable professional experience while giving back to her community in a meaningful way.

“It's important for young people to feel like they have a voice in their community," Annie explained. "We often feel like we are left out of big conversations. But with YAC, we have a voice, we get to take an active role in adult conversations, and our voices are heard. It's a pretty powerful feeling".

Annie plans to continue her career in the service of others. She is grateful for all the opportunities Drumm Farm has provided, and she would highly recommend the Americorp VISTA program to others.

Learn more about the YAC program and how to get a high schooler you know involved at [edit link]