Many students have fond memories of extracurricular activities that they did in high school. Whether it was sports, theatre, robotics, Model United Nations, or debate team, these activities helped enrich the lives of students. Unfortunately, not all students have the opportunity or funds to participate.
In June of 2020, a group of Grand Valley State University students and local volunteers set out to change that. Led by GVSU senior Eric Siegrist, this group founded a nonprofit organization The Michigan Youth Education Foundation (MiYEF).
Founder and current Executive Director Eric Siegrist was on the Model United Nations team in his high school. His senior year, the team lacked the funding needed to attend their final conference. Instead of allowing months of hard work and dedication to fizzle out, Siegrist set to work fundraising for his team.
Even without support from his school or any available funds to help him, Siegrist was able to secure about $1,000 from local businesses. In the end, the entire team was able to attend their final conference.
Fueled by this experience, Siegrist decided that he wanted to be able to help students in similar situations. With help from a few friends and community members, MiYEF was born.
“I was really big into Model UN and student activities in high school and knowing the cost of that is really expensive,” Siegrist said. “Students shouldn’t have to pay for it all themselves.”
MiYEF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on giving K-12 students access to experiential learning outside of the classroom. The organization aims to provide grants to students and student organizations that lack the funding necessary to participate in extracurricular activities.
The nonprofit has two types of grants that can be applied for, one aimed at students and the other for groups. The student grant is for up to $250 while the group grant is for up to $750. So far, MiYEF has given out two grants, but they hope to get those numbers up.
“We have targeted areas that we’re looking at, so we’re really focusing on branching out from the metro-Detroit area,” Siegrist said. With a background in the area, he has connections that can make branching out easier.
Even though the organization is starting on the east side of the state, they are also planning to reach out to schools in Grand Rapids and nearby cities on the west side. MiYEF President Madeleine Samuels along with another board member will be focusing more on West Michigan.
“We’re going to start trying to work on getting more outreach to the west side of Michigan so that we can target different bases on both sides of the state, and then also working towards schools in the U.P. as well,” Samuels said.
Though the organization is largely focused on outreach and spreading word of mouth, they are also turning their focus to fundraising. All of the board members and people working for MiYEF are volunteers, so all of the donations they receive go directly to the students that they are trying to help.
“We’re very donor-based as a nonprofit,” Samuels said. “We are, this year, trying to do a couple of pushes to one: get more students to know who we are and what we do and two: we want more people to donate so that we can distribute funds to more students.”
The next push being done by MiYEF will be in mid to late October. They are currently planning on doing an online raffle with local businesses, but more details will be on their website. From now until the end of the year, a donor has offered to match every donation made.
The Michigan Youth Education Foundation can be found at www.MiYEF.org for more information. Their donation page is up and running at www.MIYEF.org/donate.