Bringing Youth Together Through Philanthropy

By Saanvi Ram

Jenna Manders works for the Iowa Council of Foundations, but her interest in philanthropy started with Dubuque’s YAPPERS program.

“I became a YAPPER at the end of my sophomore year in high school and participated through the rest of it,” Manders said. “My time in the program was very formative in my career path. It helped me learn many skills during a productive time, yet it was a casual, little-pressure atmosphere that allowed me to make mistakes and grow.

The YAPPERS is a group of high school individuals whom the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque chooses to be “youth area philanthropists.” The program highlights the importance of social issues in young adults, service projects and team building.

For 17 years, groups of students from Wahlert Catholic, Hempstead and Senior high schools have come together to form this community service group. The program started with only a couple of teens involved, but as time progressed, more spots were opened for students.

Youth philanthropy is the process of working with others through acts of service to help the community thrive and be a positive space for everyone. YAPPERS allows its members to learn the ropes of what future leaders need.

Sadie Schultz, a freshman at Wahlert, explained that each year, the YAPPERS have several fundraisers for their final annual grantmaking process. It is their greatest initiative and all funds raised are granted back into the community to promote youth leadership and philanthropy.

In 2022, YAPPERS awarded grants to Crescent Community Health Center, Hills & Dales, iJAG, Almost Home Dubuque, the Riverview Center, the Dubuque Community School District and the Red Basket Project.

“Last year we also did a You-Give, We-Give program, where volunteer hours were put in for every donation we received,” said Shreya Ravada, a junior from Hempstead. “This year, we are hoping to do something similar.”

One of the primary purposes of this initiative is to get into the community and make a difference. Meetings are held at nonprofit organizations in the tri-state area, which are followed by group volunteer activities.

The YAPPERS had a group weeding project at the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at their last meeting.

Emily Rollins, director of philanthropy at the Community Foundation, spearheads the YAPPERS with help from the student coordinator, Nora Noonan.

“YAPPERS is an awesome way to get involved in the community and learn about the many nonprofits working tirelessly to serve Dubuque’s citizens.” Rollins said. “Students working together to fundraise throughout the year making decisions on where to grant the funds can have the largest impact on the youth in the community.”

There is room to join, and if students in high school are interested, they can apply. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared in the Telegraph Herald on November 10, 2022.

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