Civic Engagement Students Awarded $10,000 for Capstone Project

Civic Engagement Students Awarded $10,000 for Capstone Project

Allow Good Northwestern

Allow Good Northwestern, a new student-run education program led by four Northwestern students, won a grant of $10,000 to continue its work on youth philanthropy. The program began as a capstone project for the Civic Engagement Certificate Program at the School of Education and Social Policy.

Recently the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University awarded its top Generous U grant to Allow Good Northwestern, composed of SESP students Fannie Koltun, Matt Herndon and Imani Wilson and Communication student Rachel Sepulveda. The Northwestern group, a partnership with the Evanston nonprofit Allowance for Good, applied for the grant in collaboration with a similar program at the University of Chicago.

Allow Good goals
“Our mission is to educate high school students in the Evanston area on issues concerning philanthropy, social justice and community development in order to ultimately empower these youth to be change makers in their communities,” says Koltun, a sophomore studying human development and psychological services. With the support of Northwestern undergraduates, high school students work towards carefully researching how they will gift a local nonprofit with a $1,000 grant. 

The Northwestern group, as a chapter of Evanston’s Allowance for Good nonprofit, plans to provide weekly courses to high school students that emphasize methods for responsible giving. “We feel this experiential learning component encourages students to thoroughly conduct nonprofit research and engage more in philanthropy lessons,” says Koltun.

Allow Good Northwestern blossomed from a capstone project in the SESP Civic Engagement Certificate Program into a campus organization that fosters lasting connections between Northwestern and local high schools. Now the volunteer-based group is seeking interested Northwestern undergraduate students for both executive board member and teacher positions. 

Students in Allow Good Northwestern want to disprove the assumptions that today’s youth are self-absorbed and that philanthropy is only for rich people. “Allowance For Good strongly believes that everyone can be a philanthropist,” says Koltun. “Philanthropic giving thus becomes a way for youth to become engaged with their communities by learning about local social issues, local nonprofits and ways of evaluating organizations.

Civic Engagement Program
The two-year, five-quarter Civic Engagement Certificate Program gives students a deeper understanding of the influences on communities and how to achieve positive change. The program includes both course work and community service, and is open to all students at Northwestern. SESP professor Dan Lewis, who teaches the Community Engagement course, directs the program. Other faculty members are Jody Kretzman, SESP instructor and director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute, who teaches Introduction to Community Development, and Paul Arntson, professor of speech communication studies, who teaches the capstone courses.

“The Civic Engagement Certificate is a unique program in that it offers experiential learning opportunities in addition to traditional theoretical teaching practices,” says Koltun. “The capstone project during the second year of the certificate program allows us to put all of the theories we have learned about in classes into practice — truly living the theory/practice educational model allowing us to test these theories and learn to incorporate them into our lives and possibly even our future careers.”

Two of the students who received the Generous U award also learned about the practice and history of philanthropic giving through a SESP course. Both Wilson and Sepulveda both completed the Learning Philanthropy class offered by the School of Education and Social Policy.

Generous U award
Through its annual Generous U contest, the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy recognizes college and university student groups who encourage philanthropy and embody philanthropic values. The Sillerman Center, founded and endowed by Robert and Laura Sillerman in 2008, advances social justice philanthropy and engages youth in grant making to improve society. 

Allow Good Northwestern will use its prize money from the Generous U grant to support the $1,000 grants that each high school class gives at the end of the program. It will also cover expenses for training materials. The Northwestern group is splitting the prize funds with University of Chicago's Chicago Youth Philanthropy Group, which is being incorporated into the Allow Good model.

A video about Allow Good is at

Photo (left to right): Allow Good Northwestern co-founders Rachel Sepulveda, School of Communication sophomore; Fannie Koltun, SESP sophomore in human development and psychological services; Matt Herndon, SESP junior in social policy; and Imani Wilson, SESP sophomore in social policy.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 4/27/16