Each year, Giving Matters, an initiative of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, selects a young woman from the community to honor with the Young Woman Philanthropy Award. The annual award provides the recipient a $1,000 higher-education scholarship and a $1,000 donation to a non-profit organization of the winner’s choice.
The award is intended to highlight the achievements of young women and local volunteer philanthropists, and this year’s recipient, Laura Alston, is a model candidate. The Booker High School senior is as equally passionate about volunteering and philanthropy as she is about using art to inspire entrepreneurship — and she has the résumé to prove it.
In addition to creating and selling art through her e-commerce business, Artfullyours, Alston’s extracurricular activities include Booker’s Stacks Business Club, which she co-founded to inspire entrepreneurship; College For Every Student, of which she is a student leader; and Booker’s grant-writing program. She has also won numerous awards for her service and academics.
Because of her dedication to both school and philanthropy, Giving Matters has selected her for the 2013 award.
“It means a lot to me,” she says. “I was shocked, and I was so happy that there are organizations here that recognize students who volunteer. It’s a motivation for other students who might not realize these opportunities exist. I’m very appreciative.”
Born in Tampa, Alston says moving to Sarasota and attending Booker High School’s VPA program has allowed her to develop her skills as an aspiring artist. She first began creating art when she took an elective art course in middle school and found herself going above and beyond on assignments.
Today, she has an impressive portfolio of paintings, drawings and sculptures, and she’s used her artistic talent to give back to the community by painting educational murals for both Booker High and Alta Vista Elementary. After graduation, Alston will study art at Columbia University in New York, and she hopes to continue to transition into the business side of art.
Alston will be honored Tuesday, April 30, at the Gems of Philanthropy Luncheon, and she’ll donate the $1,000 award money to Booker’s College for Every Student program, which prepares students for college and helps fund college visits.
Alston says programs like this were influential in her academic career, and she hopes other students will have similar experiences.
“It’s important to find a role model in school and a mentor who can be your friend,” she says. “Surround yourself with people who want to do what you want to do and are better at it — it’s the best motivation.”