Dustin Tran first learned about the Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) from a fellow student and previous committee member, David Moore, who was a role model to him. “He was a senior then and a great student, athlete, and leader. He asked me to get involved, and actually handed me the application, and as a freshman, I took it personally. I wanted to do my best to make him proud. He was like an older brother to me.”
Flash forward four years, and Dustin just served as Chair of the YAC and is a graduating high school senior at Holland High, citing his YAC experience as one of the reasons he got accepted into the colleges he applied to.
“The biggest takeaway from YAC is that everyone can make a difference. I didn’t expect to have such a direct impact on the community. As Chair, among other things, I was the one actually signing grant award letters to organizations, but the realization starts as soon as you join YAC and participate in the grantmaking process. You think ‘wow, I can really make a difference.’ I also learned a lot about the Holland/Zeeland area.
There’s a lot of caring in this community. Everyone looks out for each other here.”
Dustin has spent his whole life in Holland but will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall to pursue a biomedical engineering degree and medical school to become a doctor. “I’ve just always enjoyed helping people. Not only do I want to get good grades, but when I leave the U of M campus, I want it to be better than when I arrived,” he said.
Dustin inherited his big heart from his parents, who came to Holland from Vietnam in their teen years. “They worked so hard to provide for our family and taught me to appreciate everything I have. I didn’t have to go through the hardships they did. They taught me about hospitality, and to be helpful, kind, and caring.”
One of the responsibilities of being the YAC Chair is that you serve as a voting member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “At my first board meeting, I was nervous and intimidated since I was the only youth member. It was both an honor and a challenge. Eventually I was able to speak up and the board even liked my ideas. It made me feel like I belonged there.”
Dustin noted that he learned a lot about being a leader through his role as Chair. “I’m a better listener now, and I am able to compromise and change my perspective when needed. I think I’ve found a happy medium in being a facilitator. There’s a balance. It’s fun making a difference in the community — it’s not all business.”
Dustin said one of his favorite parts of YAC was the site visits to some of the organizations they’ve funded. “You get to see firsthand how the money is being used to benefit local youth.” He also thoroughly enjoyed the grantmaking process. “If you look at the grants we give out, we give to a wide variety of causes. We like to help the whole community, not just one aspect of it. We like to fund innovative ideas. All of the grant proposals we get are good ideas — none would be a bad investment, but resources are limited so we have to choose the best. After reading a grant proposal, we always asked ourselves if we would be interested in the program or idea, because we’re really trying to be advocates for the youth in Holland/Zeeland.”
Over his three years as a YAC member, Dustin has reviewed more than 100 grant proposals. He found that the most memorable ones were the ones that “hit you in the heart” and allow for the reviewers to connect. Some of his favorites to fund were to the Children’s Advocacy Center and some environmental grants for Lake Macatawa. “Lake Mac’s a big deal to me, we need to keep that history around for generations to come.”
When asked what philanthropy meant to him, he noted that “it’s actually more than giving time and money. Another aspect is commitment. You have to care about what you’re doing, and that’s how the definition changed for me once I was on YAC. I take philanthropy personally. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it 100%.”
When Dustin first applied to YAC, he had no prior knowledge of what a community foundation was or did. Now, he says, it’s all in the name.
“It truly is a foundation for the community. It’s kind of like the heart of the community, literally and geographically. It’s a hub for those that need help.”
Dustin’s advice for future YACers:
“Get involved and put 100% effort into everything you do — Giving back is lots of fun but it’s a big deal because your decisions impact the lives of others.”
Dustin’s Parting Thoughts:
“I want to thank the Community Foundation for a great three years. Being on YAC changed my life. I now know that I can make a direct difference in the lives of others.
Bettering people’s lives is something I’m going to keep doing. I want to be part of my community’s philanthropy for life.”
Originally featured in the Community Foundation’s 2012 Annual Report. While this was written by CFHZ’s Communications Manager Nicole Paquette in 2013, 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.