Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) students earned $5,000 for local causes through the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) despite the impact of the pandemic.

Teacher and co-ordinator Paul Longo announced June 10 that YPI Canada would continue the funding despite school closures derailing its usual competition. The best groups from civics classes would normally compete in spring with presentations about local organizations, with the best presentation earning the $5,000 grant. But with the school year shifted due to the pandemic, YPI is instead splitting the grant between three of the top presentations from the fall semester.

This is the 13th year YPI has partnered with HHSS. Longo said it is wonderful the donation could go ahead.

“They assured me pretty early on they want to be committed to giving the money out this year,” Longo said. “We bounced around some ideas … For our situation, they were very happy to split the $5,000 up between the three teams that would have gone on to the finals in June.”

Two of those teams presented about the non-profit Walkabout Farm Therapeutic Riding Association, which will receive $3,334. Another group presented about Heat Bank Haliburton County, which will receive the remaining $1,666.

Normally, five or six teams across the two annual school semesters would compete, but Longo said the second-semester civics classes did not have much opportunity to get into YPI before the pandemic. They considered another presentation competition as usual, but Longo said it was difficult to work out given internet limitations.

“People’s differing wi-fi capabilities,” Longo said. “A lot of students are working during the daytime and trying to get everybody co-ordinated to make that happen, I just found that was almost too big for us to handle.”

Walkabout owner Jennifer Semach said the funding will go towards capital projects to improve accessibility at the locale with pathways and a shade shelter.

She added it was the first time the organization had been called to participate and she was impressed by the students’ efforts.

“The students did a remarkable job,” Semach said. “We can definitely use the exposure.”

“This has been an amazing program for our community,” Longo said, noting it has donated more than $55,000 to local causes in total over its run. “To have them continue to do that, in the atmosphere we’re in, it was uplifting for me.”

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