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Business-minded Students Raise Funds for Haitian School

In the midst of a life-changing pandemic, some entrepreneurial Episcopal students focused on helping others.

This school year, Episcopal’s student investment group, led by Johnny Barrett ’21 and Justin Yi ’21, saw a large increase in their stock holdings as the market soared. They decided to donate some of the earnings — but to whom?

Student travel remained on hold for the 2020-21 school year — including the annual service trip to Palto, Haiti, where students visit during spring break to support Episcopal’s sister school, St. Thomas. Instead of sending themselves, the student investment group sent financial support to the tune of $20,000. The funds from the investment group will go toward building classrooms and creating jobs — or, as Justin says, “serving a higher purpose of education.”

The club’s investments in the market began in 2009, with $25,000 provided as capital by Howard and Agnes Woltz P’04 ’05 ’10. When the club decided to make the donation this year, its funds had grown to approximately $80,000.

Deciding on the size of the donation prompted a robust discussion about philanthropy. Typically, Episcopal donates $10,000 to St. Thomas annually, with much of the money raised from the student-run Service Council’s sale of exam “relief kits.” The club considered making a one-time, lump-sum gift to St. Thomas of half of their earnings. But ultimately, they settled on a long-term commitment to school that would be fueled by future growth in their funds.

“If we chop our portfolio in half right now, the growth will be slower,” said Justin. “Seeing the portfolio grow was intoxicatingly exhilarating — but realizing that if we just leave the money, it’s going to grow faster.

In the end, the group agreed on the $20,000 amount. “We thought that in maybe 10 years, we want the student investment group to be able to donate $10,000 every year to our partner school,” Justin said.

Johnny added, “The foundation is there, and we want to continue building that through the culture that we’ve built — through pitches of stocks and cleaning up the portfolio and diversifying or cutting out the poor-performing stocks, so the future groups can benefit from that.”

“We hope to build a community that can give back through their own knowledge and skills,” Johnny added.

“That is the legacy we are leaving for future students — so they understand it’s not just about the profits. As a group, our goal is to help others,” says Justin.

Another enterprising student raising funds for St. Thomas is Joey Chen ’24. Joey previously attended a junior boarding school and together with his mother started a podcast about boarding schools to help families in China explore studying in the United States. At Joey’s previous school, he sold calendars that he created and donated the funds to HEADstrong Foundation, which helps support cancer patients and their families. Since coming to Episcopal, Joey wanted to continue selling the calendars for a cause.

He asked the Rev. Betsy Carmody, Episcopal’s head chaplain: “What can I do?” He says. “I have a fan base and I have people listening to my podcast; I knew I had influence and wanted to do something good.”

The calendars vary each year. One year featured Joey’s paintings. This year, he designed calendars with his photographs of Episcopal’s campus. Joey asked his listeners to support his podcast, for which he does not get paid, by purchasing a calendar, and raised about $1,200 for St. Thomas School.

“Some people said they would send in money for 20 calendars, but told me to only send them one,” Joey says of his listeners’ generosity.

“I learned that everybody has more power than they think.”
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