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For Modern Kids, 'Philanthropy' Is No Grown-Up Word

A recent study by Bank of America and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found that involving children and grandchildren in philanthropy is a top priority for "dynasty" households, in which fortunes are passed through generations.

The Montgomery County Community Foundation, which handles philanthropy for many wealthy families, has seen an uptick in parents directing grants based on their children's interests.

"We're definitely seeing that more and more," Sally Rudney, the foundation's executive director, said. "Often their interests are coming out of their community service or through their faith community."

Nonprofit sector leaders say the newfound focus on giving among youth might be a natural extension of the increasing attention paid in recent years to community service, at corporations and universities and among high school students seeking admission to competitive colleges.

"I think what it might be is a trickle down of graduate school education, the business schools, where there's really been a huge explosion of adding socially geared programs and courses into business school curriculum," Bernholz said.

As a student at Sidwell Friends School, Joanna Sharpless of Chevy Chase sat on the youth philanthropy board for Montgomery. She said the experience of awarding grants to programs helping youth in her county was transforming and helped her realize the potent power of philanthropy.

"It was a very eye-opening experience in terms of just being able to see the real problems that kids my age were dealing with in communities that were so close to me and yet seemed so far away," said Sharpless, 19.

Sharpless wrote about it in her college admissions essay for Brown University, where she is now a sophomore in the pre-med program.

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