YC2 returns, betters community

First complete year of normalcy for Young Community Changemakers after pandemic halts operations


Last year’s YC2 group graduates from the program after multiple meetings and hard work (photo courtesy of Beth Murin).

Myrna Cross, In-Depth Editor

The Young Community Changemakers (YC2) are a group of young teens who are able to learn about philanthropy and give back to the community in various ways. 

This year, the group is composed of 61 juniors and seniors from four different schools: Hinsdale Central, Lyons Township, Nazareth Academy, and Riverside Brookfield High School.

In 10 sessions, including the introduction meeting and the graduation, the members of the group learn about the local nonprofit organizations in the community and eventually get to decide which nonprofit organizations to donate to. Any Community Memorial Foundation grantee organization that addresses the students’ chosen funding priority is able to submit an application to the YC2 program to receive grant funding. Between 20 to 30 applications are typically submitted, and from there are narrowed down to only five per class. Once the five are decided, the two different classes of young philanthropists get to visit their sites and eventually decide which organizations they want to grant funding to, giving away $30,000 overall to those who need it. Some organizations that they have given to in the past have been Pillars Community Health, Aging Care Connections, NAMI Metro Suburban, and others. 

Senior program officer Tom Fuechtmann and program and communication officer Beth Murin of the Community Memorial Foundation have been leading the program for the past five years. They are ecstatic to be back to all in person sessions after being forced to resort to online or hybrid meetings for the past two years, they said. 

During the application process, the leaders look for students who have an interest in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, and are seeking an opportunity to give back to their community, Murin said.

“We’ve really noticed that it’s different when students are able to get together face to face,” Murin said. “We’re so excited to be back together again.” 

New to the program this year is Alexa Hoffenberg ‘23, who can’t wait to learn about engaging in the community and helping others who might not be as fortunate as her, she said. 

“It’s so amazing to be able to give back to organizations that deserve it,” Hoffenberg said. “It’s such a good idea to give back to your community because they are always helping you to strive forward, whether it’s your peers, teachers, mentors, friends or family.” 

This group is the perfect opportunity for teens to be able to gain and use skills to support the change happening in their communities, Fuechtmann said. He sees it as a great way for students to possibly discover what they want to do with their life or simply make a change for the better.

“I think that the young people of this generation in particular are really passionate about change,” Fuechtmann said. “The amount of social upheaval that this generation has gone through is unlike anything in history. It’s created a real thirst for justice and change, and a desire to be a part of a solution that makes the world a better place.”

Derived from the Greek words “philos” and “anthropos,” philanthropy translates to the love of humankind. The Community Memorial Foundation believes that they can’t just change the health of a community by simply giving away money as a foundation, they have to create a culture of philanthropy in our communities. They hope to engage people in giving to nonprofit organizations and helping them understand the role that nonprofits play in our community, Fuechtmann said. 

“When people think of philanthropy, they often think they have to be as wealthy as Warren Buffet or Bill Gates,” Murin said. “The truth is, when students leave this program, they leave calling themselves philanthropists. They are the ones giving their time, treasure, and talents to make a real difference.”