FIST is a student-led organization comprised of 19 students in grades 8-12 from Hamilton, Angola, and Fremont. The mission statement is to empower the youth of Steuben County to become the leaders of tomorrow by sharing their resources and empowering others to donate their time, talents, and treasures. FIST members run their monthly meetings, working through an agenda, and taking minutes to note their discussions about grant requests and volunteer activities. Every October, FIST organizes a canned food drive at the schools and visits Angola, Fremont, and Hamilton neighborhoods to trick or treat for canned goods. In 2019, they collected more than 8,000 cans from Fremont, Angola, and Hamilton. The students also volunteer with the annual pie auction and help wrap gifts during the holiday season with Cops for Kids.
Although there are other youth volunteering organizations in Steuben County, FIST is unique for a few reasons. First, they gather students from three different school systems who may not have otherwise interacted. Second, they are part of a larger network of youth pods that were established by the Dekko Foundation in Indiana, Alabama, Iowa, and Minnesota. Finally, FIST is entirely youth-led. Any decisions about new volunteer projects, grantmaking, or educational programming come from the students in their meetings. Adults offer support and connections when needed, but it’s clear that the students are responsible for the impact of FIST. In addition to the support from SCCF, the members of FIST benefit from having a guide who represents each school. These three guides provide transportation for the students to the meetings, raise tough questions, and offer support by answering questions students have between meetings.
FIST collaborates with other nonprofits that offer youth programming or volunteer opportunities in the community. They awarded a grant to Cahoots Coffee Café to support monthly game nights, and FIST members are often in attendance sharing their experiences with other youth in the community.
The 2020 FIST President, Isabell Deem, shared, “My experience in FIST helped me become an all-around stronger leader and taught me skills that I have been able to apply in other clubs and extracurricular activities, such as the Angola Mayor’s Youth Council and the golf team.”
Click the link below to watch FIST members discuss their experiences learning about philanthropy: