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Forever Improving Steuben County Together - Meet the President!

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 14 2018 02:47PM

Entering her senior year at Fremont High School, Autumn Godwin has a lot on her plate. In addition to applying at colleges, playing softball, attending meetings for National Honors Society and Student Council, and helping with Boomerang Backpack, she’s taken on the challenge of serving as President of Forever Improving Steuben County Together—better known as FIST. This is SCCF’s youth philanthropy group. Once a month, about five students from each of the Steuben County schools ranging from 8th grade to seniors will sit in a board room and review grant requests, discuss community needs, and identify ways to give back. Although the youth are supported by three school volunteers and SCCF’s Youth Philanthropy Coordinator, Susie Nafziger, FIST is entirely student led. Autumn will work with her executive team to set each meeting’s agenda, reach out to nonprofits for service opportunities, and determine where their pool of grant dollars can make the biggest community impact.

In the past, FIST has worked with elementary school classrooms to share the concepts of philanthropy—time, talent, and treasure—and give them a taste of grantmaking. FIST members have also visited with residents at Cameron Woods who would never have heard about the group otherwise, bridging generational gaps and building connections in the community.

With a new school year ahead, Autumn hopes to share the word about FIST. She wants people to know that it’s a youth-led organization, where students take the reins and learn what it might be like to serve on the board of a nonprofit organization. FIST is excited to support community initiatives, and Autumn hopes nonprofits will discover that FIST is eager to offer volunteer hours as well as grant dollars.

“This year as president, I am excited to start some new traditions with service projects. Also I want to get the younger members involved in some of the bigger responsibilities because I remember not knowing how certain things worked when I was a new member.”

Autumn looks forward to finding new ways to give back beyond FIST meeting times. In their already busy schedules, FIST students also give of their time during evenings and weekends to benefit Steuben County. “These service projects outside the meeting hours demonstrate how dedicated FIST members are to giving back and making an impact in their community,” explained Autumn. As more schools are requiring service hours for graduation, Autumn hopes they can engage additional students beyond FIST members in their volunteer opportunities and inspire a passion for philanthropy in others.

When Autumn joined FIST as a 7th grade student, she knew it would help her become more outgoing. Now, she’s leading the organization and making big plans for its upcoming year. “FIST has helped me and will continue to help me with being out of my shell and being open to new people and ideas.” Autumn has enjoyed her time in FIST and the opportunity to get to know people from other schools who she would never have met. She said that her favorite part about Steuben County is the lakes, but it’s also the welcoming atmosphere. Autumn appreciates that she can reach out to businesses for FIST projects, and they’re happy to give back and support the youth. After graduating in May, Autumn plans to attend college in Indiana, pursuing a degree in physical therapy.