Website links area teens with local volunteer workWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
UGIVE.ORG gives local high school students and nonprofits a way to connect via volunteer opportunities.
The website allows nonprofits to post volunteer opportunities that high-schoolers can then sign up for at no cost. It’s a great tool for high schools that require volunteer hours, said Jamie Baird, youth service outreach coordinator.
“It’s up to the student to go in and find an opportunity and sign up for it. The nonprofit can go in and approve the hours for the student so they can keep track of everything,” Baird said. Teachers can also make certain volunteer opportunities “featured” so they appear more prominently to encourage students to apply.
Baird and Sadi Starmack, both AmeriCorps VISTA workers, recently took over as youth service outreach coordinators for the nonprofit. The last coordinator, Paige Salamin, has been in Toledo for three years.
“I’ve loved every second of it and if AmeriCorps would let me stay in my position, I would. I’m basically timing out,” Salamin said.
The nonprofit is headquartered in Cincinnati and has several locations throughout the state, including in Toledo. Right now, the website is just for high school students, but could expand to college students in the future, Baird said.
This year, the nonprofit is especially pushing literacy tutoring and hopes to get 150 high school kids to be tutors.
“I’ve been a tutor before in high school and college and it’s important to coordinate those activities,” Starmack said.
“A lot of kids who aren’t proficient in reading by third grade are less likely to graduate from high school or graduate from high school on time, so we’re trying to improve the graduation rate,” Baird added.
Volunteering can also offer something to the high schoolers. “Not only are you helping yourself if you’re volunteering, because you are building skills, but it looks great if you’re applying for college or anything like that, but [also] that sense of community is important to a lot of people,” Baird said.
“It’s important for community members to take initiative to make their community a better place instead of just kind of sitting around, waiting to be rescued,” Starmack said.
Another part of UGIVE is UCREW, which gives 30 high school students a chance to develop their own social enterprise and choose their own cause. Last year, the local UCREW raised $1,500 for Cancer Connection of Northwest Ohio through a spaghetti dinner, car wash and bake sales. The program will run from October to February 2013.
“It was a really great experience and I definitely loved meeting some of the people,” said Trevor Walsh, a senior at Lake High School, who did UCREW last school year.
UCREW chose to support Cancer Connection last year because it had helped out one of the group member’s family.
“We are kind of like a family, you could say, in that we bonded kind of closely so we took that on a personal level,” Walsh said.
Walsh also used UGIVE to volunteer at Food for Thought and Sunrise Center.
“UGIVE is a really easy way to find opportunities in the area,” Walsh said. “Youth get the idea that we’re supposed to make an impact when we grow up, when in fact we’re supposed to be making that impact right now.”
For more information, visit UGIVE.org.