(L to R) --  and LA Works teacher Michele Rodriguez speak to grant applicants at the recent LA Works Bidders conference.

(L to R) Samantha Scofield ’16, Kelcey Briggs ’16, and LA Works teacher Michele Rodriguez speak to grant applicants at the recent LA Works Bidders conference.

The LA Works class at Lincoln Academy provides real-life work experience for LA students. This class acts as a training ground and transition point for students between high school, college, and the working world. Seniors in the Work Based Learning class often leave campus to work for part of the school day. LA Works supports workplace readiness by teaching students how to write a resume, make a good impression in a job interview, and be prepared for real-life issues that come up in the workplace.

One of the exercises the LA Works class does every year is learn about nonprofits. “Nonprofits are major employers in Maine, and I want to make sure students understand how a job at a nonprofit would be different than a job at a business,” says Michele Rodrigues, who has been teaching the LA Works class for ten years. “That way they will think of the nonprofit world as a potential place to work.”

Students learn about nonprofits is the LA Works Community Counts Grant, a real-life grant-making project that engages students with local nonprofit organizations. Through this project the students in the class raise money, then put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to local nonprofit groups. Just like in a professional foundation grant-making process, organizations come to a bidders conference, fill out a grant application, and make a presentation about what they will use grant money for.

The only difference is that instead of a foundation board, the grantmakers are students in the LA Works class. At the end of this process, which takes many months, LA Works class students choose grant recipients and award them real funds for their organization.

“This isn’t a mock grant process,” says Rodrigues, “this is the real thing! We have real money to give away, and we can really make a difference! The students act as the managers of a foundation. The students get to experience first hand how the grant process actually works.”

This year’s grant process involved 28 LA Works students, who raised $2000 through a candle selling fundraiser. Students decided to award two $1000 grants, and they published their RFP in January. Stipulations include that the grant must serve children up to 17 years old who attend school in the local district. Applicants must also show how their grant will impact the community they serve, how these impacts can be measured, and how LA Works students can get involved in volunteering for their project.

Six nonprofits sent representatives to attend the mandatory bidders conference on the LA campus in January, where they registered for consideration in the grantmaking process. Organizations now have until February 27 to write and submit their grant proposals. During this time grantees are required to present their organization and grant ideas to the LA Works students. In March students will read and rate all submitted applications.  The grantee ratings will then be submitted to the Student Project Review Committee who will review their work and determine the grant winners. Selected students will then call the grant winners and non-winners. Grantees will be notified on April 1.

Rodrigues, who started the LA Workd Grant seven years ago, says, “The LA Works students do a great job throughout this process. It reinforces what they are learning in the class: developing a timeline, working as a cohesive team, prioritizing, decision making, public speaking and a host of other critical skills they will need at college or in the workforce. I am very proud of their accomplishments.”

“This is an extraordinary program,” says Matt Goetting, Lincoln Academy’s Associate Head for Advancement. “There are few schools anywhere in the country that have a program as sophisticated and hands-on as the one that Michele and her students have developed. It teaches students that Philanthropy is about more than just giving away money. It is about making an impact in your community, and being thoughtful about how to best support organizations that are doing good for and well by their communities.”