The Power of Student Volunteers: How Sophia is Making an Impact

During this year’s Virtual Volunteer Week, GivePulse users joined social impact organizations from across the country to participate in a variety of volunteer opportunities. Participants ranged from individuals and families, to businesses for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, to student volunteers in K-12 and higher ed.

While all Virtual Volunteer Week participants deserve a shoutout, one volunteer stood out for her broad range of causes supported while balancing her top priority as a full-time high school student. 

In this post, we are excited to introduce you to Sophia, and share key action items so your own community can learn how to utilize the optimism and drive of young leaders like Sophia over the summer break. You will learn: 

  • Why community programs should affiliate with schools and institutions to promote student volunteers and service-learning
  • How student volunteers drive long-term community engagement 
  • Why individual skills and passions are essential to building a dedicated volunteer and donor base 

If you’re looking for dedicated volunteers like Sophia, recruit and list your opportunities here!

Read on to learn more about Sophia’s story and key takeaways for your programs and get in touch when you’re ready to grow your base of passionate supporters.

Roots in Volunteerism

Sophia, originally from New York City, learned the importance of giving back to her community at a young age. She was first introduced to community service during elementary and middle school when she and her classmates assisted in the local soup kitchen and handed out free coffee at a homeless shelter each week. As she got older, she began volunteering with friends outside of school hours, and particularly enjoyed her time with a program called Celebrating You, which organized birthday parties each month for children from underserved communities. Community service was a pillar of Sophia’s upbringing – her community service involvement has brought her a great deal of joy for as long as she can remember.

Key takeaway: Young people are enthusiastic and motivated volunteers! K-12 students like those at Sophia’s elementary and middle schools make up a strong volunteer base. Promote long-term engagement from local students, schools, and community partners to begin the process of cultivating lifelong, engaged citizens. 

Making a Splash: Sophia’s Impact

During the five days of Virtual Volunteer Week, Sophia gave 14 hours of service to four different organizations, benefiting a range of causes including youth, literacy, special needs, environment, animals, and people experiencing homelessness. Having recently moved to Miami with her family, she took Virtual Volunteer Week as an opportunity to engage with her community and familiarize herself with her new city. Sophia began by cleaning up a local park and felt gratified by the immediate difference she could see. She then realized that people are probably less likely to litter in a clean park than they are in a park where trash is already strewn about. With that future goal in mind, she knew the impact of her service would be amplified. 

“I’ve always loved nature and the idea of being surrounded by wilderness, so it pains me to see trash thrown in such a beautiful place. I also think that a clean park would make people less likely to throw trash around compared to a park that is already littered.”

Key takeaway: Student volunteers get the opportunity to make connections in their city and learn more about their community outside of the classroom. When you list your organization’s opportunities, be sure to note whether it’s appropriate for K-12 students so you don’t miss out on recruiting a population of great volunteers.

Sophia also volunteered her time to virtually read aloud her favorite children’s book, Rumpelstiltskin, for projects listed by Inspiring Minds and All-Stars Club Central. Spending time serving All-Stars Club Central held particular meaning for Sophia. Having grown up closely with her two cousins who both have a mental disability, Sophia knows how much it warms their hearts when people read books to them and engage with them by saying hello. Thinking of the children at All-Stars Club Central who would be listening to her read-aloud comforted her as she adjusted to reading to the screen of her computer. 

“It upsets me the way that people view my cousins, and it upsets them, too. They know when people aren’t being kind. They’re just people, not special needs people. It warms their hearts when people read books to them, and come and say hi. They love to make new friends.”

Additionally, Sophia assembled “Go Packs” for pet owners in need to support Pima Animal Care Center. With the help of her parents, she was able to create and distribute five care packages to people experiencing homelessness in her community. After reflecting on this experience, she decided that when she does this again, she will bring a care package for the people experiencing homelessness as well. In addition, she will invite her friends, hoping to generate a ripple effect of community service and kindness. 

“I’ve seen a few homeless people at the nearby mall with pets. They love their pets, always looking for ways to keep them in the shade and to make conformable places for them to rest. I’ve always wondered how they feed them and give them clean water, while they are struggling to feed themselves. I was very happy to help them.”

Key takeaway: For many, volunteering and service are part of a broader story. Reflections and qualitative data can show how an organization or individual’s engagement fits into the bigger picture and makes a difference to the causes and people we care about. To provide a meaningful volunteering experience, get to know your volunteers and tailor their roles to fit their passions, talents, and skills.

A Future of Giving Back

It will surprise nobody to learn that Sophia has no plans of ending her long-standing history of community engagement. Although she has plenty of time to decide how to apply her skills and passion for humanity to her life’s work, Sophia can imagine her future self as a psychologist due to her interest in how the mind works, and her motivation to help people through rough times. 

In the more immediate future, Sophia would like to work with an organization to provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ young people, noting that nobody should be kicked out of their home and isolated for being true to themselves. She plans to apply once she is old enough to participate, and in the meantime is looking forward to attending in-person volunteer opportunities so that she can continue to make an impact.

Key takeaway: Volunteering can impact students — and adults! — as they consider their careers and callings. When working with student volunteers, emphasize connections between engagement and potential ways of continuing to serve the community through work in the future. 

We highlighted partners and volunteers in this Spotlight Blog to showcase why they are passionate about their service and ultimately inspire others to be passionate as well. Schedule a call with our team to discuss how we can connect your community to volunteers and donors who are excited to make a difference!