March 30, 2011—In an average middle school class one would expect to hear discussions on the central themes of Romeo and Juliet or the details of the cell cycle. For a group of 43 seventh and eighth grade students from Eastside College Preparatory School in Palo Alto, California, class discussion centered on a completely different subject: gender equality and child/infant mortality.

These students had the unique opportunity to participate in a philanthropy project that gave them the power and responsibility to allocate funds they raised to organizations they felt could make a difference in the world. Through bake sales, information sessions, and other fundraising events these dedicated students raised nearly $5000 to give to organizations they believed in.  

While deciding where the funds should go, the teacher of these young change-makers, Jen Johnson, asked the students to focus on selecting organizations that address the United Nations Millennium Development Goals regarding gender equality and child/infant mortality. The students divided into 10 groups and each chose an organization to research and present to the other students. Of the 10 groups, three chose to focus their energy on Tostan.

After researching Tostan and interviewing Luzon Pahl, Senior Operation Manager at the Tostan DC office, about everything from Tostan’s program model to details about the budget, the students presented their findings and explained to the class why they thought investing in Tostan would make a difference. While presenting, they specifically mentioned aspects of the Tostan model that they truly admire. For example, they discussed how they like that “respect is the base of Tostan’s model and that people have the right to discuss and decide on change themselves.”

After hours of hard work and lengthy discussions, Johnson’s students decided to donate $750 to Tostan. The dedication of these middle school students to create and invest in positive solutions for the global community embodies Tostan’s belief that change comes from the cooperative effort of everyone in the community regardless of age, schooling, position or class.

We thank the students at Eastside College Preparatory School for believing in Tostan’s mission and for supporting work that will create lasting, positive change.

Click here to read this article on Tostan’s website.

Story by Courtney Petersen, Tostan Communications Assistant in Washington, DC