Undoubtedly, Santa Barbara has a robust philanthropic community, but there is also no doubt that many local philanthropists are getting a bit, ahem, gray around the temples.

In an effort to educate the next generation of charitable leaders, the Santa Barbara Foundation is planting the seeds for future boards with the Katherine Harvey Fellows program, designed to cultivate philanthropic leaders for the community.

The endeavor got a booster shot last week when the 2010-11 class of Katherine Harvey Fellows celebrated the culmination of their 18-month program by awarding more than $55,000 in grants to local organizations.

Funded by the late Katherine Harvey, a former Santa Barbara Foundation trustee and the first woman to serve in that capacity, the invitation-only fellowship program provides a forum for a select group of young professionals to explore ways to make a significant, lasting impact in the community by engaging with and learning from some of the most highly regarded philanthropists and organizations in town.

Each class chooses a focus area. This year the group decided to fund “K-12 education programs that promote and support important transitions and increase family and parent participation,” Fellow Chris Pizzinat said.

Pizzinat and his classmates — Dianne Gayoski Duva, Fahim Farag, Maria Garcia-Cacique, Austin Herlihy, Victoria Juarez, Patricia Madrigal, Sabina Netto, Charles Osiris, Kaye Palomarez, Susan Salcido, Julie Sorenson, Judy Taggart, Jaime Valdez and Daniel Zia — join an impressive group of more than 100 community members who have gone through the program, including Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, the Community Environmental Council’s Sigrid Wright, The Fund for Santa Barbara’s Geoff Green and ParentClick.com founder Rachael Steidl.

The group began their 18-month journey last year by participating in all aspects of the work of the Santa Barbara Foundation, including agency research, community relations and fundraising. In addition to meeting regularly, they were mentored by Santa Barbara Foundation Trustees past and present — including Jon Clark, Sarah de Tagyos, Judy Frost, Roberta Heter, H. Peter Karoff, Judy Markline, Jim Morouse, Tom Parker, Alex Posada, Joanne Rapp, Ken Saxon and George Thurlow — and received unique access to how nonprofit organizations impact communities.

The class of 2010-11 represents the seventh such group to participate. Collectively, the program has raised more than $400,000 in grants distributed throughout the Santa Barbara County.

“Having gone through this experience I can unreservedly say that giving away money is not as easy as it seems,” said Pizzinat, an experienced fundraiser who is the deputy director of development at UCSB and the former deputy director at Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

The grants include $15,000 to Mobile Waterford, an interactive curriculum that uses a computer-equipped van to bring English language and reading readiness training to the several hundred non-English speaking 4-year-olds who otherwise would enter the Santa Barbara elementary schools without being able to speak the language.

A $15,000 grant also went to the SBCC Running Start Program, which seeks out disadvantaged students from the significant population of graduating high school seniors who do not plan to attend college and provides them with financial and motivational incentives to help them overcome obstacles to obtaining a college education.

That same sum of money was awarded to Guadalupe Union Pre-K Camp, which helps prepare the 60 percent of local children who enter the Guadalupe Union School District with no opportunity to attend preschool. The Pre-K Camp provides school-readiness skills not available elsewhere and has a proven track record of increasing social and academic success for students who attend the camp.

Just Communities Central Coast received $5,790 for its Family Dialogue Program, the goal of which is to empower a diverse group of parents/guardians with knowledge about the academic achievement gap in local schools and the tools and support to be come leaders for equity in education. So far the program is being used at Dos Pueblos High School and McKinley Elementary School, and the funding will allow it to expand to additional schools.

The final grantee was to AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which received $5,000 to continue its work in and out of classrooms to close the achievement gap by targeting students who would be the first in their family to attend college and evidence a willingness to work hard and a desire to achieve. The program works to prepare them for college through elective courses in middle and high school and family workshops.

“We are sending you out into the community as ambassadors of philanthropy and its great capacity to do good work,” Santa Barbara Foundation President and CEO Ron Gallo told the class of 2010-11.

Reflecting on her experience, Fellow Susan Salcido, assistant superintendent for the Santa Barbara County Education Office, said, “We learned how to do philanthropy well, collectively working together with a focused team dynamic and values, working towards a great purpose. It was an experience to be remembered and utilized for a lifetime. … And I really think that many of us have now kind of re-upped our commitment to Santa Barbara.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation is now accepting nominations for the next class of Katherine Harvey Fellows. Click here for more information.

Noozhawk contributing writer Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at leslie@lesliedinaberg.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.