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Standing (L-R): Jimmy Bulmer, Patrick Dodson, Pamela Skripak (Executive Director of INLCD), Philip Kane, Aubrey Fitzpatrick, Aimee Cuevas, Somya Singh, Elisa Donato, Madeline Kelly, Rachel Bournique, Megan Trigg. Sitting (L-R): Natalie Donahoe, Ellie von Wellsheim (Founder and Executive Director of The MoonCatcher Project), Ciara Breslin, Professor Susan Appe.

The Student Philanthropy Fund selected The MoonCatcher Project and Youth FX as its inaugural winning nonprofit organizations.

Students in a graduate course on philanthropy turned learning into action by funding two local nonprofit organizations. The newly established Student Philanthropy Fund launched this past spring out of Assistant Professor Susan Appe’s Philanthropy and Civil Society graduate course at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. The fund, housed at UAlbany’s Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development, selected The MoonCatcher Project in Schenectady and Youth FX in Albany as its inaugural winning organizations.

Throughout the semester, Appe guided students through the process of researching organizations and choosing the winners. The class compiled a list of nonprofits, looking at their mission statements, projects, finances and community partnerships, and then narrowed them down based on worthiness of cause, accountability and integrity, transparency, impact of donation, effectiveness and diversity.

The funds were divided into two categories — $500 for an organization committed to international work and $1,000 for an organization providing services and activities to the Capital District community. In the end, the students awarded $500 to The MoonCatcher Project and $1,000 to Youth FX.


The MoonCatcher Project is an international organization based in Schenectady that creates reusable, washable menstrual management kits for distribution in disadvantaged communities worldwide, as well as offering reproductive health and menstrual management classes. In these communities, the taboo topic of menstruation, low income and lack of access to feminine products results in girls missing school and even dropping out altogether.

“We chose The MoonCatcher Project because we felt as though our donation would have a significant impact in working towards a humanitarian issue occurring internationally at a local level,” said the class’s collective report. “The topic of menstruation is one that is often not talked about, even in America, and as a class we saw the need for this support for young girls to help them be successful. We admired the fact that the organization is all volunteer run, and all of the hard work that they put towards their mission.”

The local impact winner, Youth FX, works to empower young people from historically underserved communities by teaching digital filmmaking and media production. Their free programming primarily works with people ages 10-24 in the South End, West Hill and Arbor Hill neighborhoods of Albany to produce documentary films. The process focuses on collaboration and building leadership skills, while teaching advanced digital media techniques. YouthFX films have been selected for screenings at some of the world’s leading film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival and Woodstock Film Festival.

“Youth FX’s record of proven success, strong alumni network, and ability to create social change made them stand out among the rest,” the class wrote. “Providing students with technical skills, developing character and leadership skills, and learning how to share stories are all experiences that Youth FX provides for Albany’s youth. One of the most impressive aspects of this organization is that it is led by staff and volunteer alumni of their programs.”


The Student Philanthropy Fund’s mission is to contribute to students' preparation as public service professionals, to develop philanthropists with integrity, and to build relationships with and fund nonprofits across UAlbany’s communities.

With the success of the spring course, Dr. Appe expanded the program to the undergraduate level in Fall 2019 in the new course: Private Philanthropy, Public Problems, and Power. Students in the undergraduate class are currently working on giving $3,000 away to deserving nonprofit organizations.

The Student Philanthropy Fund is funded by private donations from generous alums of Rockefeller College and other local community members.

To donate to the Student Philanthropy Fund, visit albany.edu/rockefeller/give

Ellie von Wellsheim, Founder and Executive Director of The MoonCatcher Project, holding a reusable menstrual pad the MoonCatcher Project makes and distributes to girls around the world.
Darian Henry, Assistant Director & Co-Founder (left) and Bhawin Suchak, Executive Director & Co-Founder (right) of Youth FX, a media arts organization focused on empowering young people of color.
Photos by Patrick Dodson