Matine Khalighi, 18, of Denver, Colorado, a senior at Smoky Hill High School, co-founded a nonprofit that has raised more than $130,000 since 2016 to provide basic necessities for people experiencing homelessness, plus scholarships for five homeless students. When Matine was in eighth grade, he enrolled in a community service class and raised money for children in the foster care system. “Months after completing the course, I started to recognize a great need in Colorado,” he said. “My state was severely lacking in resources to support its homeless population.” Matine felt compelled to act, so with a like-minded friend, he started “Helping the Homeless Colorado.”
They spent months filing paperwork to attain nonprofit status, applying for grants, securing corporate sponsors, developing a website and promoting their organization through the media. Matine then recruited volunteers to be members of a 20-person youth board to govern the organization. After researching homelessness, the group decided to focus on lobbying the state legislature on behalf of homeless people; educating the public by speaking at schools and community groups; and alleviating suffering by fundraising to provide necessities. The organization also has sponsored “Outreach Days” across the state, when volunteers distribute hygiene kits, meals and warm clothing to those in need. Since its inception, the nonprofit has distributed more than 41,000 items to Colorado’s homeless population and has allocated $15,000 to help five homeless youth earn associate degrees. In the future, Matine said, he hopes to expand his organization to all 50 states.