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We asked a diverse group of American students to describe their experience as participants in an experiment using the Main Street approach to philanthropy. These are their actual words…

By the way, when was the last time you heard one of today’s teenagers say something like this?

I never knew giving away money was so hard . . . or so much fun.

Ervin, age 13

These past few weeks have been the best part of my high school years. I liked having the opportunity to help someone in need and donate to an organization that supports our cause. I learned it is crucial to look at the numbers before investing in something because they will show you if it’s something worthwhile or if you’ll just end up spending your money on something that doesn’t show any signs of success.

Jesus, age 17

When I first heard of this off-the-wall idea I thought, ‘This can’t be real,’ but I’m here to tell you that it is! I never thought I would get this much learning out of this experience, not because I had low expectations but because it has just blown my mind away!

Payton, age 18

Having something as your passion, whether helping autistic children or being the head chef at a restaurant, is the best way to complete your life and find the core to happiness. Because happiness is the answer to life.

Ana, age 16

The group as a whole was in awe of this approach (which doesn’t happen often because OBVIOUSLY teenagers know everything about everything). This is such a new, fresh, and modern way to participate in philanthropic activity.

Bethany, age 17

I learned from the Make a Difference (“MAD”) cards that every single human can make a difference in someone’s life in a positive way. I learned that a lot of other people need help in our world. I learned that I have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life.

Husam, age 17

I’ve realized through this experience that I don’t know too much about the financial side of things, such as doing taxes and what-not… like NOTHING! So I hope I learn a thing or two about money! Hopefully, as cheesy as this sounds, I hope I become a better person. Sometimes I feel a bit selfish in certain aspects of my life so I hope I can make a change.

Tatiana, age 15

This week we each interviewed a family member, mentor, or friend to see their viewpoint about donating. This definitely impacted me more than anything we have done so far. I chose to interview my father, a man I live with day to day but didn’t truly realize all he does for others. There is one quote that stands out in my head as my dad said, ‘When you change your focus from self to others, you see the positive results of charitable giving.’

Olivia, age 16

My first experience using the M.A.D. (Make a Difference) cards was interesting. At first I saw it as a joke, but after we got more into it I started to realize that this wasn't a joke. These are real-life issues that are happening and will keep happening until we start to work together to address them.

Daniel, age 16

I noticed something that I didn’t have clear in my mind, and that was the urge and desire to help others and contribute to making a difference in the world.

Jessica, age 16

I had a personal experience with my mother when I was doing the interviews, getting to reconnect with her on a different level than ever before. Even though I didn’t really identify with her because I had a lot of anger issues built up over the years, I learned that we were really similar. I found that we both hold kindness very high and if we could change one thing in the world today it would be selfishness. When my mom said, ‘If everyone could be selfless we wouldn't have any problems,’ I was like, ‘Wow, mom, I agree with you.’ Whether she subconsciously taught me this while I was growing up or if we just found out that our souls desire the same thing--it doesn’t matter. I don’t mind either way. The greatest part of this interview was getting that connection with her.

Lauren, age 16

It is great to learn not only about donating but also other things in life. We will have setbacks but that won't really matter. What will matter is our attitude and response to a situation like this. All I want to do is make sure there are enough doors opened for people who are treated different because they have something like autism.

Ana, age 16

I learned some financial tips and how to donate to organizations, but I also learned from the interview how much my mom went through as a child. I hope that no other child has to struggle the way her family did. This really helped me to go deeper into my cause. I am now thinking of joining a summer program that works with children.

Maria, age 17

By learning how a charity collects its money, spends its money, and shares its money, we are able to make very accurate predictions as to how much of our donations will actually go to that cause.

Travis, age 16

I’m nervous but excited to contact organizations. I hope that they’re just as willing to put effort into this project as I am, because in the end, I want to do something to make a difference in their organization!

Kristen, age 16

I interviewed my brother about his volunteering experiences. My brother volunteers frequently, from Give Kids the World to hospitals to animal shelter to hospice care facilities, He does it all! He explained to me that to him, true volunteering can only be achieved if you put your heart into what you are doing.

Jonathan, age 15

I am glad this check will be delivered to the right hands. This will make me feel happy that I have made a difference, maybe not in the whole world but in some hearts in one little corner of the world. Through the research we did I am learning to be careful with the causes I donate money to. I don’t want my money to just "sit" there and not cause an effect. I want it to be multiplied and change lives.

Dulce, age 15

My mom said she never knew of anyone who was just willing to give up their time and money to a bunch of high school kids. I mean, really, we are very lucky to get this opportunity!

Chaney, age 17

In this experience, I hope I can be part of a greater cause and help others in a way they cannot help themselves.

Preston, age 18

I’m excited by being able to give money to our favorite charities! I’m hoping to inspire others to get into philanthropy, help out physically (not just with money), and see the end result be fantastic!

Tyrnie, age 16

Using these ‘Make a Difference’ (MAD) cards was really fun. I learned many things that I didn’t know before about myself and my peers.

Arelis, age 16