Life sprouting from coins

Philanthropic women’s group teaches high school students about giving


A year ago, high school junior Olivia Hesse would have had to guess at the definition. Now, the Georgetown High School student is part of Next Generation, a diverse group of high school girls selected by their teachers and school counselors to learn about philanthropic affairs.

The program, led by philanthropic women’s group Seeds of Strength, kicked off at the beginning of 2015 with about 20 students from Georgetown, East View, and Richarte high schools and about 10 adult mentors from Seeds of Strength.

Over a series of twice-monthly meetings during the school year and fewer meetings during summer vacation, Next Generation aims to equip high school girls with philanthropic know-how by putting them in charge of their own $4,500 budget and tasking them with allocating the money wisely.

“We’re hoping to teach these girls about personal responsibility,” says Linda Austin, an English II teacher at GHS, Seeds of Strength member, and Next Generation mentor. “When you do for others, your life is enriched. And letting the girls experience that in person—that’s how you grow the next generation of philanthropists.”

The program educates the girls on the breadth of philanthropic services already being provided by people in Williamson County as well as on the needs that are not yet being met.

Seeds of Strength logo

“We discussed all the areas where we could give [money]—like a shelter for women and children or towards childhood hunger—and we discussed where we thought our money could make a difference,” says Hannah Pierce, a junior at Georgetown High School. “We even had speakers come in and talk to us about what was lacking in the community.”

After hearing pitches and informative presentations from several agencies, the girls made a short list of places they wanted to visit on site, including Round Rock’s STARRY (Service to At-Risk and Runaway Youth), The Georgetown Project’s The NEST (Nurturing, Empowering, Supporting for Tomorrow) program, Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, and The Caring Place.

Touring The Nest, a safe haven for youth who are homeless or living in transition, struck a particular chord with the Next Generation girls, many of whom hadn’t realized that youth homelessness was an issue in Georgetown.

Before joining Seeds of Strength’s Next Generation Program, “I actually didn’t know anyone from our high schools was homeless,” says Olivia. “But it turns out there are more people than you’d think in those situations.”

The Nest helps the community by providing an afterschool program and housing solution for kids, as well as meals and clothes, homework help, drivers’ education, and more. “They even have people come in and give kids haircuts,” says Hannah.

L to R - Serena Bender (EVHS), Josie Valdez, Stephanie Moreno, Caroline Jones, Hannah Pierce, Jacqueline Massey, Olivia Hesse

L to R – Serena Bender (EVHS), Josie Valdez, Stephanie Moreno, Caroline Jones, Hannah Pierce, Jacqueline Massey, Olivia Hesse

After a few on-site visits to various nonprofits, the girls convened with their mentors to discuss the nuts and bolts of giving, says Linda.

“We went over criteria that should be considered when donating, like the charity’s budget—the ratio of money they take in and the money that goes directly toward the community services, and a needs assessment—how other needs of that organization are already being met. In other words, how needy are they?” Linda explains.

As the 2014–2015 school year wound down, the girls settled on two causes they wished to champion: promoting college opportunities to each of their respective schools, and The Nest youth empowerment center. At a Seeds of Strength awards ceremony in April, Next Generation presented checks to each of their selected causes.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the program,” says Olivia. “It really boosts your self-esteem and makes you feel important and like you’re doing something for the community—something bigger than you.”

Seeds of Strength is an organization of women that gives grant money to local charities. For more information, visit

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