To many in the Holland/Zeeland area, seventeen year old Tabahn Afrik is known for his record-breaking swimming skills. At the Community Foundation, he is known for his thoughtful leadership of our Youth Advisory Committee in 2014.
“My parents have taught me to work hard and to give my best effort. Swimming and YAC are two of the places where I’ve really been able to live into that,” said Tabahn, who first learned about YAC from fellow members of his swim team. “Dustin Tran, former YAC Chair and a few other members would come back from YAC meetings and share some of the cool things that they were able to help fund in the community. They encouraged me to apply.
I am so grateful for their encouragement because it’s been such a rewarding experience,” recalls Tabahn.
One of Tabahn’s favorite parts of the YAC experience was the site visits to nonprofits. “Through YAC, we are able to invest in so many great projects. When we are able to visit the nonprofits we fund, we get to go one step further and really see the outcome of what we’ve invested in. We’re not just funding the proposals, we’re getting to see the actual results. It helps us realize how big of an impact we’re truly making when we can witness our grant funding decisions in action,” noted Tabahn.
Tabahn is headed to the University of Notre Dame in the fall where he will study business.
“Being the YAC Chair has taught me how to be a leader. It made me realize what it takes to truly step up and lead. In school and in the pool, there are not as many opportunities to be the person that everyone’s looking to for direction. I know I’ll use these skills for the rest of my life.”
As YAC Chair, one of Tabahn’s responsibilities is to serve as a voting member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
“I feel very lucky because not a lot of high school students enter college with board room experience. I’ve become an advocate for speaking up and voicing your opinion. It seems scary at first, especially when you’re speaking to a room full of community leaders, but it’s important as young people to step outside of our comfort zones. If you sit at the table, you’re there for a reason. People want to hear what we have to say,” said Tabahn.
In addition to honing his own leadership skills, Tabahn has learned a lot about Holland/Zeeland.
“To me, philanthropy means giving and being proud of it. I’ve learned that people here really love this community. We’re here to make this place even better than it already is.”
“Holland/Zeeland has youth that are intelligent, outgoing, well-spoken, and willing to work together. I think that’s really important in a community, and we have that here.”
The most memorable grant during Tabahn’s time on YAC was a recent grant to Barnabas Ministries to help construct Barnabas House, a shelter for unaccompanied homeless youth.
“I had no idea how many local kids didn’t have homes or were in these awful situations. As YAC members, we have the opportunity to do something about this issue and many other issues affecting our youth,” said Tabahn.
“Being both the YAC Chair and the youth trustee of the Board has meant so much to me. It doesn’t really hit you until you’re graduating. Here you are, amongst others your age, with sports, school, and a social life, but we’ve all come together to make a difference in this community through YAC. Being the one to lead that effort has been a real honor.”
Originally featured in the Community Foundation’s 2014 Annual Report. While this was written by CFHZ’s Communications Manager Nicole Paquette in 2015, we believe that stories of generosity are timeless and always relevant.
The Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is a group of students from local Holland/Zeeland area high schools who are responsible for reviewing funding requests and recommending grants for programs that benefit area youth. YAC members meet once a month during the school year for grantmaking, site visits to local organizations, and learning about community needs and philanthropy. The YAC is enriched by the unique perspective and experiences that each member brings to the Committee’s work.
The YAC program was established in 1991 through a challenge grant from the Michigan Community Foundation Youth Project (MCFYP) funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The mission of the YAC is to empower young people, involve them in the community, and teach them about philanthropy while serving as stewards through grantmaking. YAC members bring enthusiasm, dedication, and thoughtful consideration to their work as youth grantmakers and community leaders.