The Fresh Faces of Philanthropy

Kids are becoming high-profile CEOs of their own nonprofit groups.

Timothy Hwang and Minsoo Han, now seniors at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, started their organization, Operation Fly, when they were 14. They raise money through tutoring -- charging much less than the market rate -- and use the money to distribute blankets, clothing and soap to Washington's homeless people. Operation Fly has spread to five cities, with 800 volunteers, and is entirely student-run.

Brittany and Robbie Bergquist were 13 and 12 when they heard about a soldier overseas who couldn't pay the phone bill for his calls home. They quickly found that they could help, raising money by selling back old cellphones to be recycled. Since then, the Massachusetts siblings have sent more than 600,000 phone cards to troops and raised more than $5 million.

Young philanthropists devote hundreds of hours to their causes, making appeals many donors find irresistible even in tough economic times.

"When you see a kid, it seems more trustworthy, less jaundiced," said Andrew Hahn, a professor and director of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University.

Bill Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, said college admissions officials are seeing ever-more impressive philanthropic efforts from students trying to get into elite colleges. That is definitely a strong plus on an application, he said.

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