In Youth We Trust Council

Youth granting youth the power to lead and change our community.

In Youth We Trust is a youth philanthropy program of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. Established with a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1994 and endowed by a local donor, this program teaches grantmaking, volunteerism, and leadership skills to today’s youth, preparing them to be the positive change of tomorrow.

The In Youth We Trust Council is made up of high-school-age youth from Boone, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties. Council members engage in direct community service as well as philanthropy; the Council is directly involved in the In Youth We Trust Grant Program administration. They help set grant policy, review youth-inspired service project proposals, and recommend the distribution of grant awards. This year, the IYWT Council will distribute up to $40,000 through two grant cycles to community projects that benefit local youth.

View IYWT Council 2023 - 2024 ScheduleApply For an IYWT YOUTH GrantApply for an IYWT ADULT/NONPROFIT Grant

In 1993, the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois was one of 20 community foundations selected by the Ford Foundation to be part of a program called Changing Communities: Diverse Needs. The Foundation suggested to Ford that the best way to bring a community together was to bring youth together.

In the summer of 1994, the Community Foundation gathered a diverse group of youth inspired by the notion that youth could partner with other youth to improve their community. The In Youth We Trust grant program began in 1995 and since then, the In Youth We Trust Council has recommended the distribution of over $500,000 to local youth led organizations.

The In Youth We Trust Council, made up of high-school-age youth from across the region, engages young people in community service and philanthropy by giving them resources and opportunities to help solve problems affecting their peers and their quality of life.

In Youth We Trust Council members are directly involved in both the In Youth We Trust YOUTH Grant Program and the In Youth We Trust ADULT/NONPROFIT Grant Program. They help set grant policy, review youth inspired service project proposals, and recommend distribution of up to $40,000 each year in grants to selected projects. 

The IYWT Council meets approximately one Saturday morning a month during the school year. As part of the IYWT grant process each year, In Youth We Trust Council members review grant applications for youth-serving projects, evaluate the applications, and interview the applicants. In addition to participating in the grant review program, members take part in many community-building activities including volunteer work and planning community events for youth.

In addition to attending required meetings and activities, IYWT Council members:

  • Learn and understand the purpose of IYWT and the mission of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois;
  • Learn grantmaking guidelines and procedures;
  • Prepare for and participate in grant review meetings;
  • Evaluate applications based on guidelines, community impact, and budget;
  • Identify and inform the IYWT Council of the needs of youth in the community;
  • Advocate for the IYWT program. 

What are the IYWT Council Member Responsibilities? Check out the Attendance Policy and Code of Conduct

Mark your calendar for the IYWT Info Bash on Saturday, August 19th, 2023, from 11-1.  Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a member or receiving a grant can stop by the CFNIL backyard (946 N. 2nd Street, Rockford). We’ll have snacks, music, and yard games. Come get to know current members, ask questions you might have, and meet other youth who want to make an impact on their community!

Applying is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

Step One: review the IYWT Council Informational Letter and the 2023 - 2024 IYWT Calendar to make sure you would be able to attend most of the meetings.
Step Two: Complete and submit the membership application and a letter of recommendation no later than Wednesday, September 6th, 2023.
Step Three: Applicants will be notified by the end of the day on September 8th and should be ready to attend the IYWT Council Kickoff Meeting on Saturday, September 16th, 2023, at 9:00 a.m.

The deadline for joining In Youth We Trust this year is September 6th, 2023. If you’re interested in joining or have questions, contact our staff advisor Heather Cunningham.


Addysen Feng – Auburn High School
Ainsley Bridge – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Alex Marshall – Hononegah High School 
Andrew Cruz – Belvidere North High School
Anu Karunamurthy Premanand – Hononegah High School
Augie Tully – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Ava Castillo – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Avery Bridge – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Cole Thomas – Winnebago High School
Eleanor Fane – Hononegah High School
Fatima Abdall – Guilford High School
Ian Wan – Auburn High School
Isabella Enright – East High School
Jackie Maximo – Guilford High School
Katie Marshall – Hononegah High School
Katie Trenhaile – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Kayla White – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Layla Armstrong – Guilford High School
Lucas Manaligod – Auburn High School
Luke Manthuruthil – Boylan Central Catholic High School

Maggie Miller – Rockford Christian High School
Mary Clare Cyrs – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Morgan Whitmore – Auburn High School
Paige Trenhaile – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Rissa Donnelli – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Sasha Smythe – Boylan Central Catholic High School
Selin Dik – Auburn High School
Stella Garcia Ragaller – Hononegah High School




Luke Manthuruthil – President
Isabella Enright – Membership/Marketing Chair
Alex Marshall – Secretary



Annie Hobson
Sandy Ruiz
Phil Smith
Jocelyn Solis

IYWT 25th Anniversary Logo

Questions? Interested in learning more about IYWT? Contact Us!

Heather Cunningham, Program Coordinator and IYWT Liaison, headshot
Heather Cunningham
Program Coordinator and IYWT Liaison
Phone: 779-210-8209
Email: Heather Cunningham
Halloween might be scary, but you know what's not? Submitting a grant application! Philanthropy is for everyone, including our community's youth! The In Youth We Trust Fall Cycle is meant for youth-led, youth-benefitting groups. This application for the Fall 2023 is open until November 16th. Our Council created a video sharing a bit about the application process. Check it out!