Local Treasures with Pia: Generation Alive empowers youth to lead with compassion

Spokane, Washington – Think about the words ‘generation live.’ We believe in the premise that you find life when you don't live just for yourself – what we want to do is raise up a generation that is alive.

Those are the words of J.J. Vanzil, CEO of Generation Alive, a Spokane-based non-profit that recently got some funding from the Avista Foundation.

“Our mission is to activate youth to lead with compassion,” Vanzil said. “We provide opportunities and training curriculum and help young people get involved in serving their community.” By giving back, Vanzil said youth discover the joy of serving others, and they are also given opportunities to lead and discover their full potential.

“As adults we tend to tell kids that they are not old enough or mature enough to do certain things, we tell them all about what they can’t do,” Vanzil said. “Generation Alive is all about what they can do. How they can get involved.”

Generation Alive works with youth from elementary through high school and one of the primary means of engagement is the creation of Action Teams in the schools. About 40 schools participate in Generation Alive and the Action Team is formed by student volunteers who go through a step-by-step curriculum: First they form the action team, then they lead a school assembly where they share what matters to them, what they feel passionately about. Then they do a fundraising campaign in support of the project they’ve chosen, and finally Generation Alive facilitates that money raised goes to the chosen project.

“We collaborate with non-profits all over the area, it could be a shelter or the Humane Society, whatever the students pick,” Vanzil said. “And at the end of the fundraising part we do a compassion challenge where the Action Team students commit to doing two hours of community service on their own, to help that organization.”

Generation Alive is well established in the greater Spokane-area and this year Vanzil said the organization is expanding to North Idaho.

“Last year we had 250 action team students in 21 schools. This year our goal is to double the number of students to 500,” Vanzil said.

The biggest impact, however, may be on all the students who participate in a school assembly.

“This year around 15,000 students will participate in school assemblies and fundraising for non-profit organizations,” Vanzil said. “That is by far our greatest touchpoint.”

At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.

Visit generationalive.org for more information about the organization, how to participate and how to donate.

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