A Splash of Colour

Turning a trash can into a community treasure

Grade 11 student George Xie at Lillian Osborne School got help from Edmonton Community Foundation’s (ECF) Young Edmonton Grants (YEG) program this past spring to beautify trash cans at elementary schools around the city. Bothered by the ugly receptacles in his neighbourhood, Xie had an idea to start painting them as a way to brighten up green spaces.

After mulling it over for a couple days, the 16-year-old reached out to ECF, who awarded a grant that helped provide art supplies to local schools for the project.

“The reason why I started the project in the first place was because I went to my park and I was like, ‘Wow, that trash can is so ugly. Why is that there?’” says Xie.

“What we had the students do was paint the trash cans on the theme of preserving nature, and we’re going to be placing them in parks around these communities. We wanted to inspire others to be more invested in naturalization and the environment in general, and just feeling that beautification in the neighbourhood is incredibly important.”

Xie’s project has helped young students transform 25 trash cans at various schools. He hopes to keep going, eventually covering every school in the city, as well as parks in underfunded areas.

ECF Grants Manager Cassandra Lundell says Xie’s application had “good, detailed plans” that brought students together. The YEG program began in 2011 as the Youth Empowerment Program, with the goal of supporting youth leadership, and was re- named in 2013. The program has granted more than $600,000 to over 300 projects since its inception, in partnership with local charities, with a maximum grant of $3,000 to each individual project.

Some examples of past grantees have included a cooking club, a mural, an “eSports” video gaming league, and the Edmonton Ice Swap, which helps families afford equipment for kids playing hockey and ringette.

A small team of youth between the ages of 13 to 24 reviews applications for projects that aim to help the community and are initiated, led, and organized by young Edmonton and area residents. The committee meets at least twice per year to review and discuss the applications, ultimately awarding grants to applicants who best fit the criteria, and gives them guidance for achieving their goals.

Boosted by the YEG grant, Xie was inspired to help other like-minded youth realize their goals for bettering the city and joined the YEG committee in May, where he has already helped approve a new round of eight grants out of 14 applications.

“Everybody on the granting committee is definitely somebody who’s passionate,” Xie says.

Xie says he was more “cutthroat” than his fellow committee members going in, but has learned to appreciate ECF’s mandate of encouraging growth and allowing youth to learn and exercise their entrepreneurial spirit through the process of executing their ideas.

“I think the priority of Edmonton Community Foundation is just to foster youth development. And even if [the youth] make mistakes, I think that they wanted to encourage that kind of growth through learning from your mistakes, as opposed to getting everything right at the start,” Xie says. “I’m glad that in Edmonton there’s that kind of attitude, and especially with these kinds of organizations … What’s important is to have a good vision at the end of the day, and to be able to continue to work towards that vision.”

Edmontonians aged 13 to 24 can apply for YEG funding on our YEG webpage. Applicants must partner with a registered charity, which can include their school. The final application deadline for 2023 is October 15.

Apply for a Young Edmonton Grant