A new student group at Umatilla High School is hoping to make a difference in the community while learning some skills along the way. The CommuniCare Committee is new this year. The group of about 18 students is being led by chair Kaidan Blair, UHS Senior. 

The group is organized through CommuniCare Oregon ( which is funded by The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation. According to the organization’s website, the foundation “believes there should be opportunities for young people to create change. The CommuniCare program provides an environment where young adults will learn about the needs of their community and develop leadership skills through grantmaking.”

Here’s how it works: a school registers to become a CommuniCare school and then over the course of a school year, the group receives the dedicated support of a CommuniCare staff member and resource materials to guide them. In the fall, the student group selects a community issue they care about, writes a Mission Statement and starts fundraising.

The group needs to raise $750. Blair said they have planned a Hat Day, where students can pay $1 to wear a hat at school (usually prohibited by the district dress code), a Haunted House around Halloween time and possibly a parking lot BBQ in the spring. If they raise $750, it will be matched up to $15,000 by CommuniCare Oregon. Then, the UHS committee asks local nonprofit organizations to submit applications to potentially receive grants. In January/February, the students develop their evaluation criteria and choose several nonprofits to interview or to visit on site. By April, they are ready to award the grants.

UHS’s Blair said he is hoping he and the students participating will learn about how the grant process works, how nonprofits operate and how to give back to your community. “I feel that this is important because students are not only gaining skills about how grants work, but students will get a better connection to some of the problems that adults don’t always see within our community, the perspective is really important,” Blair said.

The UHS committee has decided to focus on opportunities for youth, especially young people who may not be able to afford activities. Blair said he hopes the group continues after this year at UHS and is able to support community projects for a long time.