Natasha Derezinski-Choo

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NobleHour Heads to the 2015 National Service-Learning Conference

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Apr 08, 2015 @ 11:42 PM

NobleHour is attending the National Service-Learning Conference (NSLC) as a sponsor for the fourth year in a row. The 26th annual NSLC will be held in Washington, DC on April 8-11. This year’s theme, “More Powerful Together,” emphasizes how making meaningful connections increases the effectiveness of service-learning. This event brings together educators, students, nonprofit organizations, and community members to discuss how they can make impactful change through service-learning.


Participating in workshops, listening to guest speakers, and engaging in a day of service will expose attendees to the tools, resources, and solutions they can use in service-learning. Although those in attendance will represent a diverse group of people, they share a common goal. They hope to improve their schools, communities, and world by empowering young people and encouraging them to take an interest in the issues around them. Fueled by this passion, the conference will examine current issues and how collaborative efforts are a necessary component of the solutions. Everyone has ideas that can improve our world, but learning how to translate ideas into actions is a daunting challenge, particularly for young people. Service-learning brings young people together to share their knowledge and hope for something better. It is through these experiences that they can supplant problems with change.

The NobleHour team feels a deep connection with the NSLC because our roots are in service-learning. NobleHour began as a tool built specifically for volunteering and service-learning. Then a high school sophomore, Callahan Fore founded NobleHour in 2005 as a simple database where students could learn about volunteer opportunities in their communities and organizations could find volunteers. The site grew to include all of service-learning's best practices and a complete suite of tools to encourage students to explore new interests, initiate connections, track and record engagements, and gain real-world experience while contributing to a larger cause.

NobleHour is proud to advance the field of service-learning. As an educational tool, we are committed to supporting educators who are invested in empowering and engaging young people. As most of the NSLC attendees are students, NobleHour hopes to connect students with their communities, so that they may become tomorrow's leaders by solving real-world problems today. Indeed, the NobleHour network of communities, schools, non-profits, and individuals is an example of how we can be “More Powerful Together.” 

The NSLC is one of many initiatives organized by the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC). NYLC is an organization that promotes, supports, and facilitates service-learning as a method of creating “...a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.” With the help of its many sponsors, such as NobleHour, the advice of its Youth Advisory Council, and partnerships with schools and organizations, NYLC advocates for service-learning by supporting educators and young leaders.

The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) provides NYLC with a youth prospective. The YAC is composed of young leaders recognized for groundbreaking achievements in service-learning. These young people go above and beyond when they volunteer, found non-profits, and engage in social entrepreneurship. They bring their experience to advise the NYLC on how service-learning programs can be more effective in encouraging young people to begin acting in their communities.

One such program is Project Ignition, a campaign to improve motor vehicle safety awareness. According to NYLC, car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths, and Project Ignition hopes to educate young people on driving safety. Project Ignition is designed with service-learning in mind by making this a youth-led effort. Students combine service to their communities with academic lessons that analyze how and why culture contributes to unsafe driving. At NSLC, most of these participants will be students from all over the country bringing their ideas, big or small, for how to improve their world. These young change makers represent a future brightened by collaborative efforts.

The NSLC is a spirited and meaningful event powered by the energy and open minds these young people will bring. If you are attending the NSLC, be sure to stop by the NobleHour booth to say hello and pick up a free water bottle! Make sure you to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates, and follow the hashtag #mpt15!

YAMFest Fosters Community Discussion about the Impact of Technology on Students

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 10:49 AM


It is a normal Saturday morning and I find myself convincing my brother Mariusz to come to YAMFest with me. My methods of persuasion with a teenage boy involve promising I’ll buy him food and the opportunity to win prizes, but I’m hoping that the real reward is that he might learn something new. Reluctantly he joins me, but not without first asking, as you may be wondering also, what is YAMFest and why is it so important?

YAMFest (Youth and Media Festival) is a student-organized event at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC that explores how young people can better engage with technology. This past Saturday, over 350 students, educators, and members of the community attended the third annual YAMFest.

After the opening ceremony, YAMFest guests attended two sessions hosted by guest speakers from the community and by Grimsley students and organizations. For each session there were five possible presentations to attend, which covered a variety of topics: The cultural significance of hip hop and punk rock, the problems and benefits of technology use, business and marketing relationships, coding in Scratch, and using Linux.

IMG_2468-1[Left: Students attend "Nexus between Hip Hip and Punk Rock" by Bryan Turman]

After these morning sessions, four student speakers from the Greater Greensboro Area shared their experiences creating feature length films, starting a photography career, and sharing their original music online. These four students represent how young people can use technology and media to become young entrepreneurs by simply sharing their interests and hobbies. A preview of a documentary by Grimsley Filmmakers Club about the Poet Laureate Project was also shown. At the beginning of the day each attendee was given a raffle ticket, and in the closing ceremony four iTunes gift cards, two selfie sticks, an iHome speaker system, and a Galexy 4 tablet were given away.

The Project Committee for YAMFest 2015 consists of 27 students from Grimsley High School. However, many other clubs, organizations, and sponsors were also involved, putting the estimate at about 100 people who helped make YAMFest a reality.


[Left: Members of the Project Committee]

The YAMFest Project Committee has two advisors at Grimsley High School, math teacher Roberta Rohan and librarian Jessica Sherard. As an educator, Rohan describes that supporting students outside of class “shows that you care about them and their other interests.” She says that, particularly in high school, each teacher will teach their favourite subject, but one of “the joys of teaching is seeingthem outside of class and supporting what they can do . . . you learn from them and you enjoy it.”

After having been involved with YAMFest as a junior, Paige Kitchen was invited to become the Project Manger in the beginning of her senior year. As a young leader, she has learned the importance of having a strong team supporting her. The Project Committee began working in August to plan the event. The day before YAMFest, she and her team were hard at work, but at no moment were they nervous. “We were all just so excited, the whole team . . . they’re so awesome,” says Kitchen.

IMG_2484[Right: Paige Kitchen]

Students like Paige are models of how young people can make a positive impact on their community. Her advice to other young leaders is to accept that at times there will be stress, but “make sure you’re having fun during the process. Seriously, if you’re not laughing all the time and enjoying the process, then you will never be truly absorbed by it.” The most challenging part was organizing speakers for the event, Kitchen reflects. However it was worth the effort because she hopes that from these presentations her peers can gain a better understanding of technology and “hopefully be more conscious of the things they do” with technology.

YAMFest’s huge success is due to the though provoking questions it asks of Millennials. Indeed, Millennials may be the most technology-steeped generation in history, but they rarely stop to consider how technology affects our lives in many profound ways.


[Left: Members of the Project Committee]

“I just hope that people understand what we’re trying to do. We’re not some kind of boring, computer gadget museum day. No, we’re here to show you the technology that you don’t expect!” says Kitchen.

In the session entitled “Tools and Technologies: Are There Any Questions?” Muktha Jost from North Carolina A&T State University asked students to consider “how you evaluate your technology.” Technology can be both useful and dehumanizing. She described high technology such as a smartphone as the “external brain,” while low technologies, tools such as a pencil or knife, help someone develop a “craft.” She challenged students, after evaluating technology, to ask, “Taking away the external brain, what can you do?”

Music is one such “craft” that is changing in response to new technology. Gisselle Gladden, senior at Grimsley High School, describes that her favourite part of YAMFest was “learning about the technological advancements throughout the evolution of music and how today we take different approaches to discovering new music.”IMG_2473

[Right: Members of the Project Committee]

Sabrina Cheung, a member of the Project Committee for YAMFest, shared with me her experiences with this project. “Before, I wasn’t aware of the deep connection between youth and media. Art, music, and technology are so deeply ingrained into us. I hope that other youth can recognize this.”

YAMFest challenges young people to be self-aware of the ramifications of having an online presence, and to use their technology in the best way possible. As a regular blogger for NobleHour, I wanted to share some recent news that ties into this YAMFest mission. is an example of a website used by students that is committed to a conscientious approach to young people and technology. NobleHour recently became one of 127 signatories to the Student Privacy Pledge. As a software provider to K-12 schools, NobleHour assures parents, teachers, and students that data collected from students is for the sole purpose of supporting learning opportunities and providing educational services.

After convincing my brother to attend YAMFest, Mariusz did not win any of the raffle prizes I promised him. He also complained that we didn’t order enough breakfast. I half-expected him to maintain his morning grumpiness and to hide the fact that he’d enjoyed himself. But at the end of the day, I asked him, “Mariusz did you learn anything?” and he nodded and smiled with a very enthusiastic “yes.”

 Photos: Natasha Derezinski-Choo 

7 Things You Can Do to Support International Women’s Day

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Mar 06, 2015 @ 11:19 AM

International Women’s Day (IWD) is on March 8, 2015 and has been celebrated since 1911. IWD is a worldwide movement to “celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.” To participate in IWD, you should promote awareness, learn about the issues facing women worldwide, and take action to show your support of women around the globe. On this day, we recognize that the most marginalized group in the world comprises half of the population and that changes need to be made. Improving the lives of women is in everyone’s interest because everyone has women in their life. Women with better lives would make for a better society. Here are seven ways you can take part in IWD through your thoughts and actions.

1. Ask the Question: Does Gender Inequality Exist?

Evidence for gender inequality lies in the fact there are women missing from the world. At birth, more girls are born than boys. This is a biological fact that humans cannot change. Additionally, women tend to live longer than men. However, worldwide there are more men than women. Approximately 100 million are “missing,” indicating that barriers in health, education, and economics are indeed yielding an unequal world—this we can change.[1] In the developed world, women can work, vote, and go to school, but inequality remains. For some, this means women are treated equally, but this is not true. The sentiment for equality does not ensure its actualization.

2. Make it Happen

The 2015 theme for IWD is “Make it Happen.” It is a reminder to reflect on what needs to be done to improve equality and to make these changes happen. Gender equality means women can also “make it happen” when they don’t have to face barriers to their independence, freedom, success, and happiness. Use your social media influence to talk about IWD using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

3. Wear and Share the Color Purple

Purple is the color for IWD. In the early 1900s, the colors of the British suffragette group, Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), were purple, white, and green. Purple symbolizes justice and equality—two important tenets of gender equality—and has been adopted as the IWD color[2]. White symbolized purity, and green symbolized hope. You can participate in IWD by wearing purple and sharing #PaintItPurple on social media.

4. Be a Leader

Throughout history, women in positions of power was limited to a few individuals who inherited power due to lack of a male heir. Here are some facts and markers of progress: In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first democratically female elected head of state as prime minister of Sri Lanka.[3] Afghanistan, Cuba, and 57 other countries have a higher percentage of elected women than the United States.[4] However despite these advances, only 20% of parliamentarians (elected representatives) in the world are women.[5] In democratic governments, it makes sense for women to have influence as representatives of half of the population, and this is an area where the world could improve by teaching girls that women are also leaders.

5. Have Compassion

IWD may often seem to celebrate “Great Women History,” but it also reminds us to think about our mothers, sisters, and friends. Surely there are incredible women in your life. The cumulative memory of our actions will someday characterize our place in history, so let us try to create a society remembered for its compassion. Our attitudes towards success, beauty, and proper conduct affect our treatment of women. A compassionate society would treat its women with respect. It would not objectify them. It would want them to be happier.

6. Advocate for Education

In countries like the United States, nothing prevents girls from going to school, but this is not the case everywhere. In many places, women’s inability to access education has a negative impact on their entire life. A powerful video by the non-profit, One Girl, illustrates the improvements a girl can make to her life when she can go to school. She can work, be independent, maintain her health, and provide a better future for her family. The divide between women’s educational opportunities around the globe is an important reason to stop and reflect on IWD.

7. Understanding Equality

A common misconception is that advocating for women’s rights means advocating against men. I think Cheris Kramarae put it best when she said, “feminism is the radical concept that women are people.” It’s no secret that women have not been treated equally in history. IWD is a celebration of the progress women have made to overcome these challenges and serves as a reminder that our world is not yet equal. It’s difficult to see how a world where half the population was happier, healthier, and more successful would be problematic.

IWD is a reminder to be cognizant of how our thoughts and actions impact women. Whatever gender you identify with, IWD is an important cause. You can make an impact by raising awareness, reflecting on your attitudes, and donating to organizations that deal with the issues previously discussed or improve other areas of women’s lives.

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” ~Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman








Topics: international women's day

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. through Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 01:14 PM

How will you be spending your holiday on January 19th? Will you be sleeping in, grateful for the shortened week to come? Watch another season of your latest Netflix obsession? Catch up on work or studying? Will you be treating it like any other long weekend? Or, will you join the thousands of people who will use this day to create stronger communities through service?

What is MLK Day? Why is it important?

The_time_is_always_right_to_do_what_isIn 1983, Congress signed legislation that created Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday in January. In honour of Dr. King’s vision for equality and justice through community efforts, MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is designated as a day of service. People from all walks of life are encouraged to improve the lives of those in their communities by taking a pause from their regular schedule to take action against pressing issues, such as civil rights, education, the environment, health, hunger, and poverty.

We can learn from Dr. King’s life by modeling his dedication to solving social issues through nonviolent community collaboration. It’s “A Day On, Not a Day Off” where we can explore our ability to make positive change through service. The hope is that this celebration will illustrate that those who volunteer can exercise tremendous influence in our communities.

Who will serve?

Anyone and everyone are encouraged to volunteer on MLK Day. It is important that both non-profits and businesses in the community collaborate. Non-profits can organize special service events to bring people together around a specific social cause. Businesses can help by sponsoring similar volunteer events or giving their employees time off for service. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations are key to the success of MLK Day.

How can you share your service?

Not only is it important to serve on MLK Day, it is also important to make your service visible to others in your community. Today it is easier than ever to promote service through social media.

Before MLK Day, share and invite people to volunteer with you through social media and by speaking with your friends, colleagues, and students. Organizations can also join the MLK Day Service network to connect with community members and access resources to help raise awareness and gain funds. Serving as a family can also help form a tradition of service and reinforce community values.

After your day of service, be sure to use social media to share how you volunteered. MLK Day is a chance to replace a lazy Monday off with meaningful action; we can replace one social media post or photo about ourselves with something we can do for others. With service also comes advocacy, and sharing your experiences and actions can help others become involved.

America’s Sunday Supper

A unique way of getting involved with MLK Day is to host a Sunday Supper. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for bringing together people of different backgrounds in order to foster unity within communities, Sunday Suppers are a chance for people to come together and share a meal while discussing issues within their community.

Hosting these events is not very difficult. You or your organization will need to advertise your event and plan a discussion. If you are looking for funds, you could ask guests for donations, speak with local businesses such as grocery stores about donating food, or make the Sunday Supper simpler by simply having light refreshments and snacks. You might also want to use this event to collect material or monetary donations for your topic of discussion. For example, if you plan to discuss hunger, then ask guests to bring canned food donations.

Alternatively, you could incorporate a plan of action into your discussion. After discussing the important facts and causes of an issue, you could move the discussion into possible solutions and come up with a service project at a future date. Another option might be to plan a service project directly after the discussion.

When I was involved in hosting Sunday Suppers in the past, the program encouraged organizers to begin the meal with a film or documentary related to an issue and then end with a discussion about the issue afterwards. We hosted a Sunday Supper about health and obesity by showing the film The Weight of the Nation and a second event about violence featuring The Interrupters.

This year, documentaries about social issues are not available on the American Sunday Suppers event page, so getting appropriate films and the permission to show them may be more difficult. However, this shows how the idea of the Sunday Supper is versatile and adaptable. A Sunday Supper does not have to take place on Sunday nor does it have to be in the evening, but it is a chance to make the MLK weekend a dialogue about pressing issues in our community.

Get Involved

I hope that you will find some way to spend your MLK Day off by serving others. Volunteering is a special way to honour Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by continuing a tradition of service, as well as a way of honouring your community by giving back to those in need. Search for local MLK Day of Service events here on NobleHour and use the comments section to share how you plan to serve.





Online Retailers that Give Back to Charity

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 12:49 AM

The commercial aspects of the holidays can sometimes cause us to question the spirit of giving, thanks, and compassion.  Check out these websites that give back a percentage of your purchase to charity.

PerkleGive a gift that benefits a local organization.

Perkle is a new platform that allows you to donate to various social causes while shopping from some of your favorite retailers. Donating though Perkle is just like online shopping. Many of the things you already buy online can be bought through Perkle, and a portion of the money is donated to a cause of your choice.

 “Lets make giving into an everyday action instead of a rare transaction” -

Many major online retailers are on Perkle, including Amazon, Expedia, Fandango, and Office Depot. For Perkle to donate part of your purchase, you have to go to the merchant’s website through a link from Perkle. There is no extra cost to shop through Perkle. 

A list of all the causes fundraising through Perkle is available on their website, and if you are interested in adding your own cause, you can easily create one.  Perkle reviews each application to ensure each cause meets its standards. Each cause must “accomplish something good for a person, group of people or society.” There is no cost for nonprofit organizations or consumers to use Perkle. There are only the benefits of turning everyday purchases into social good.


AmazonSmile sells all of the same products as, but 0.5% of your purchase is donated to charity. You can use your regular account to shop through AmazonSmile. When you shop through AmazonSmile, you can view everything available on, but the product description will specify whether it is eligible for donation through AmazonSmile.  

More than a million charities and non-profits are on AmazonSmile. When you log into Amazon Smile, a list of possible charities will appear, and you are asked to select one. However, you can change the organization to which you are donating at any time. Organizations can register to receive money from AmazonSmile by applying online and submitting information to prove the organization is legitimate. Registration is free. 

Shop With Meaning

Some online retailers give back to charities and non-profits.

Shop With Meaning is a website where you can find products made to raise funds for a particular cause. Shop With Meaning aims to be transparent, allowing consumers to know exactly how their purchase will create social good.  Information about the organizations is readily available so consumers can make cognizant choices about what they are buying. In some cases, a portion of the sales is donated. Some of the social causes supported by Shop With Meaning include providing clean water, combating human trafficking, and fighting poverty. 

Shop With Meaning also offers a "one for one" program, in which a company promises to donate one item for each purchased.  For example, if you buy a pair of shoes from a company participating in the “one for one” program on Shop With Meaning, another pair of shoes is donated to someone in need.  Details about who is benefiting these donations depend on the product, but the information is readily available. 

Chosing the Best Gift for Social Good

Unlike Perkle, the products on Shop With Meaning are not exclusively from mainstream retailers. Most of the products are from non-profits hoping to raise money from the sale of their products. However, the percentage of money donated from Shop With Meaning is generally greater than on Perkle.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both.  On Perkle, consumers can make donations simply by buying things they already would, while on Shop for Meaning one would most likely need to do a little more research to find what you are looking for. Both are terrific ways to make consumerism a little more meaningful.  

AmazonSmile seems to be a miniature version of Perkle, and the differences between Shop With Meaning and AmazonSmile are the same as those with Perkle. However, the impact of shopping with these two organizations is quite different. Perkle provides access to a variety of retailers while AmazonSmile is focused on one retailer. In addition, the average donation when shopping on through Perkle is 4.8%, which is a much higher percentage than the 0.5% that is donated through AmazonSmile. In order to make the same donation on AmazonSmile as Perkle, you would have to spend almost 10 times more. For example, to make a $5 donation on Perkle by shopping through the Amazon link, you have to spend approximately $104. To make the same donation by shopping through AmazonSmile, you would have to spend $1000. On AmazonSmile, the retailer benefits much more than the charity.

All three of these websites provide ways to give back while shopping. However, it’s important to remember that we cannot replace giving with consuming. While it’s a great idea to make your everyday purchases into a charitable event, keep in mind that the organizations are only receiving a fraction of your money. If you end up spending more money through these retailers in the name of charity, you should consider volunteering or donating your money  directly to the charity instead.

We hope you will check out some of these websites as you are shopping during the holiday season.  Making meaningful gifts for social good can become part of your regular spending routine. Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

Teaching Kindness Through Compassion & Service

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 03:11 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

This week is World Kindness Week.  The movement is simple: it encourages people to do something kind for someone else. Everyone has the capacity to be kind, but people can also be self-centered and hateful. For our compassion to win over our vanity, we have to develop the habit of being kind. We have to be reminded why it is important to be kind. To begin the process of developing kindness as a character trait, it is important to learn it from a young age.  For this reason, I believe that educators should teach kindness alongside regular school curriculum.

Teaching kindness helps create connected communitiesFostering kindness between students helps build character by training students to think of the feelings of others before acting negatively. Some teachers hold regular class discussions relating to kindness and empathy. Sometimes, simply taking the time to ask students to talk about themselves can bring out kindness in their peers. Such discussions can be prompted by questions as simple as How are you? or What are you doing this weekend?

I believe that when educators create an environment in which students can share freely and voluntarily about themselves, it can bring a group of people together. When you begin to learn about another person and respect their time to speak and share in the discussion, it becomes more difficult to be judgemental or negative towards them.  

Teachers find that this technique works well among younger students. Engineering social relationships to focus on seeing one’s peers as people, rather than objects of criticism, promotes kindness. They become more inclined to help one another, even in simple ways such as holding open doors or complimenting each other. Elementary-aged students who participate in regular discussions to get to know one another develop better cooperation, empathy, and self-control in group work activities. When students become kinder to their peers, they are better equipped to care about strangers and their community. 

When it comes to teaching students to be kind to the community, service-learning and volunteering can be valuable tools. Taking students on a service-learning field trip can help them see how their actions can have a positive impact on others. Holding school-wide events to fundraise or collect items for donation will open students’ eyes to the problems facing others.

Service-learning projects can easily tie into a number of academic subjects. Students can read literature related to a particular issue, gather statistics surrounding a cause, study the history and progress of similar social issues, and gain research skills from cultivating this information. When students first learn how a problem is impacting the lives of others, they develop empathy and want to formulate solutions for these issues. Service-learning and volunteering teaches kindness by allowing students to discover the kindness within themselves. This is more effective than being instructed on what kindness is. At the end of a service project, students can not only say that their service was helpful to others, but they can feel the growth of their own creativity, imagination, and inner compassion. 

Students serve and build compassion.

Most importantly, educators can teach kindness by leading by example. Teachers play an important role in forming both a student’s intellectual and emotional abilities. By showing kindness to students, teachers can be more encouraging and help students develop better self-esteem. Being understanding toward students teaches them to be understanding towards their peers.  Rather than punishing students for failing to meet expectations, teachers should be willing to open a dialogue about why a problem is occurring and what can be done to fix it. Sometimes a student may simply be preoccupied because of something at home, a problem with their friends, or difficulty understanding the material. These small conversations can help solve the root cause of an issue and prevent it from happening again. Students remember the compassion of teachers who help them to succeed, and will mimic the same compassion toward the people they encounter in the future. 

If we all make conscious efforts to be kind, we can build stronger and more meaningful relationships with individuals, our communities, and the world.  What actions will you take to celebrate World Kindness Week?


Topics: kindness, bullying prevention, service

Being Aware of Raising Awareness

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 11:20 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

The end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is approaching and like many awareness campaigns, it has come under some criticism. Some argue that companies and large corporations get carried away jumping on the “pink bandwagon” in order to sell more, while donating a very small portion of money to actual research. The happy, positive pink ribbons perhaps detract from the true devastation of this disease and some survivors feel alienated by Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Furthermore, some of these companies, despite advertising about the fight against breast cancer, continue to use harmful chemicals, including carcinogens—cancer-causing chemicals—, in their production. Though these companies may appear to have good intentions, and indeed their vast visibility no doubt does raise awareness, it falls to consumers to be fully aware of the repercussions of their purchases. 

That’s not to say large corporations are the only ones at fault.  Critics also point to the average person for propagating some of the false-promises of simply raising awareness.  Social media makes it increasingly easy to promote “awareness” through one’s personal online presence.  However, it’s important to note that this heightened awareness should lead to more than just likes and retweets.  It’s important that awareness ignites action and empowers people with knowledge.

Charlotte Alter writes in Time Magazine, “‘Awareness’ is a virus that preys on well-meaning minds. It tricks us into thinking that thought is the same as action, that acknowledging something is the same as fixing it. Awareness is a problem masquerading as a solution.” 

It is important that when promoting awareness that our actions feed the momentum of a cause and not our vain desire to share with the digital world that we are altruistically aware of the cause.  A recent example of effective social media awareness is the ALS ice bucket challenge, which created immense amounts of awareness about this disease while also raising funds for research.  However, one might also argue that advertising one’s ability to waste clean water is a display of developed-world privilege, as almost 800 million people have little to no access to clean water. In terms of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, of course, no one is arguing against promoting awareness and preventative measures for breast cancer, but critics like Alter are arguing for better, more impactful awareness—awareness that starts action.  Rather than just hashtagging and liking, perhaps one can also make a donation to breast cancer research.  The key is to use our awareness to truly empower ourselves and others with knowledge.

In response to the critics of rampant, vain social media awareness, some people still argue that awareness campaigns alone are enough. As Scott Davis writes in Forbes, “If not a single extra dollar is raised in October, but one woman detects her early-stage breast cancer as a result of “going pink” awareness, then it is all worth it.” 

I’ll leave it for you to decide.  To what extent are you truly promoting awareness, and to what extent is that awareness igniting impactful change? 


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Opportunities to make a difference


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Opportunities to make a difference

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 @ 05:07 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Men can also have breast cancer, accounting for about 1% of cases. When detected early in the localized stage, over 98% of patients survive five years or beyond, according to the National Cancer Institute. The goal of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is to encourage women to learn about the risk factors and to learn about taking early detection measures. Continue reading to learn how you can get involved. cancer-389921_640

Donate: Donating to breast cancer research is a simple way to get involved. Some organizations that collect donations for research include but are not limited to the Susan G. Komen organization, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Donating is a direct, simple way to contribute to research that will help lead to better treatments and saving lives.

Fundraise and Organize: Organizing a fundraising event can encourage other people to donate with you. There are several ways to fundraise. Creating a donation page and sharing it online with friends and family can encourage people to make contributions. Additionally, you can be more creative by organizing your own fundraising event. The same organizations that collect donations (listed above) and many other online resources can provide information and resources on how to organize a fundraising event. If you take a look around at your social groups, you are sure to find a sizable amount of people whom you can encourage to participate. Whether its in your workplace, school, neighborhood, or immediate family and friends, it only takes one person to encourage others to make a positive change.

Volunteer: If you aren’t up for starting your own event but still want to be involved, you can find someone else’s event to volunteer for in your area. There are also many other volutneer opportunities that can connect you with a cause.

Share: Raising awareness about breast cancer is not just about donating time and money; it is also about empowering others. When people know more, they are better equipped they are to ensure their health and the health of those near to them. Sharing information through social media or word of mouth is a great way to help spread awareness to the people you know. Learn more the risk factors, or learn about early detection.

Community Changemaker Spotlight: Allison Greiner

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 @ 11:24 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Going the Distance for Duchenne Awareness

Allison Greiner started Miles for Matthew, a fundraising event in Greensboro, NC that helps advance research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. By day, Greiner is a French teacher and a mother of three. She is fun, smart, energetic, and a little bit quirky, but most importantly she has a heart dedicated to doing the best she can for others. 

Miles for Matthew is a 5K/10K run benefitting research and awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

One of her sons, Matthew, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2007 when he was 21 months old.  Duchenne is a genetic disorder that occurs mainly in boys where there is a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin.  Dystrophin is a protein needed to maintain muscle cell structure.  Without dystrophin, muscles degenerate over time, and the loss of their function can lead to further health problems.  Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and it is the most common among incurable genetic disorders that affect children. 

In 2008, less than a year after receiving Matthew’s diagnosis, Greiner started Miles for Matthew, an annual 5K/10K race to raise money for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, an organization that helps fund research programs for Duchenne. The slogan for Miles for Matthew is “Hope Starts Here.”  After overcoming the initial shock of her son’s diagnosis, she explains, she knew she wanted to do something.  She knew she couldn’t cure him herself, so starting this race was her way of fighting for her son.  Greiner doesn’t recall where she got the idea to do a race, seeing as at the time she was not an avid runner herself, but she felt that it would be a good way to involve an entire community. 


This past Saturday was the sixth annual Miles for Matthew race. The program expands each year. Typically, about 300 runners register and 100 volunteers help on the day of the race, but Greiner is the sole organizer. This means that Greiner is responsible for planning the logistics, finding sponsors, marketing the event and more. 

When soliciting sponsorships, Greiner has a philosophy about keeping it within the community.  She believes in asking mostly local businesses to donate to the event, and in return she tries to always ask for support from places that she typically gives her business too. She believes that this creates a “beautiful partnership” between the fundraising event and local entrepreneurs.  Sponsorships help fund the event itself, and this is very important to Greiner because her goal is that all of the money given by the runners for race day goes directly toward research.

Sending emails and following up with sponsors can also take quite a bit of time. However, each year it becomes easier, as over time she has built a network of contacts that expect her to contact them about sponsorships. Community support also makes Marketing a little easier. Community members are very supportive by sharing Miles for Matthew by word of mouth and through social media. A graphic designer, advertiser, and some local businesses with advertising space help promote the event. Thanks to a supportive community, for the past six years Greiner has been able to organize this event that brings hope to her family and to the families of other boys with Duchenne.

Greiner explains the personal impact of starting this event: “the rewards personally are really profound.  It’s just phenomenal, the amount of people that want to help.” Her biggest takeaway from this experience is that she is glad she has been open about the hardships of Duchenne and created something that allows other people to help.  People around her want to be supportive, but there is only so much they can say to help, and they are not always sure what they can do. Miles for Matthew gives them an opportunity to do something impactful.  “People in this community are really generous with their time and donations and moral support,” said Greiner.

The impact of Miles for Matthew can be measured in several ways.  The race has been very successful in bringing awareness to the local community. After the first two years, Greiner decided to change the location from Bur Mill Park to Lindley Park near Matthew’s school.  Having the runners run near Matthew’s school and around the neighbourhood increases visibility for the event.  To date, the 2014 Miles for Matthew campaign has raised over $26,000 for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.  Miles for Mathews is “one event in a plethora of events,” Greiner said. “. . . collectively, that’s making a larger impact.”

Though she is humble about the impact of her local event in comparison to the grand scheme of things, I would argue that the change she has brought to her son’s life and to this community is bolder than what most individuals would dare to enact.  People like Allison Greiner are community change-makers because making a positive impact is part of their everyday lives. 

For more information about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or to make a donation, go to Learn more about Miles for Matthew by watching the video below:



Being an Effective Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Sep 05, 2014 @ 11:41 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

Volunteer coordinators help an organization run smoothly. They are the point of contact between the volunteers and the organization.  However, not many people know about this challenging and important field.  In order to understand what it means to be a volunteer coordinator, what skills it takes, and how one might get involved, I spoke with two volunteer coordinators at local organizations to gain their insight. 

Finding good volunteers is vital to the success of a non-profit.Carole Whisnant is the volunteer coordinator for The Salvation Army in Greensboro, NC.  She has been managing volunteers since 2008.  Prior to coming to Greensboro, she was an office manager in Atlanta, GA where she also worked with many volunteers. 

Kelli Crawford is the volunteer coordinator at the Greensboro Science Center.  She has been working in this position for three years now, and manages more than 750 volunteers a year. 

The responsibilities in a volunteer coordinator position are vital to the success of an organization.  Whisnant explained that her primary job is recruiting volunteers for our various programs and services, and that this job requires her to “wear many hats”.

Crawford elaborates on these different “hats” with something volunteer coordinators call the “Three R’s”—recruitment, retention, and recognition.  In terms of recruitment, volunteer coordinators must find volunteers for programs and advertise any volunteer opportunities.  At GSC, there are a variety of programs in need of volunteers, and part of Crawford’s job is making sure people are aware of those programs.

Volunteer coordinators are  also responsible for making sure that the people who are giving up their time to the organization have all the necessary tools and information to do the most good.  Retention depends on ensuring that volunteers feel like they are making a difference and getting the most out of the time they serve. Volunteers need to feel valued, and a volunteer coordinator makes sure they do. GSC  has two formal volunteer recognition events each year.

“We want our volunteers to be thanked often so they know how important they are to us. That makes them feel like they are a vital part of the organization” said Crawford.Volunteer coordinators must recruit, retain and recognize volunteers.

Fulfilling all of the responsibilities of a volunteer coordinator also involves learning and acquiring skills to deal with many other people.  A person must have certain skills and characteristics in order to efficiently manage hundreds of volunteers.  According to Whisnant, the three most important qualities for a volunteer coordinator are good communication skills, patience, and a good attitude.  Crawford agrees that communication is an important part of managing volunteers. “You have got to be able to talk to people. You’ve got to definitely be able to train people. You have to know how to convey info in a way that’s fun but also get your points across.  That’s a part of motivating your volunteers and making sure they know what expected of them.”

This ability to communicate stems from being a people person, says Crawford, “If you can’t relate to your volunteers, you’re not going to be successful.” Lastly, Crawford emphasizes the importance of organization.  She explains, “One of the things that they expect when they are giving their time freely to your organization is that you’re going to know what you are doing, and you’re going to have everything together.  If you tell them you’re going to do something they expect you to do it and to do it on time.  It’s really important to make that good impression.”

Local organizations that rely on volunteers also rely on skilled volunteer coordinators. It takes a certain type of person to keep volunteers informed and inspiring them to stay with your cause. Being organized, having the patience to work well with people, and communicating effectively are some of these most important skills a person needs to manage volunteers. 

For anyone contemplating a volunteer coordinator position, this is definitely both an exciting and difficult field.  Whisnant and Crawford both advise that this is not a job for just anyone.  “If you don't enjoy working closely with people then I would not recommend this field.  Working with volunteers can be very challenging and demanding,” said Whisnant. 

Crawford explains that, in her experience, one of the greatest challenges is knowing that there are only so many people wanting to volunteer, and even less who will be interested in your organization. The struggle comes from reaching all of those people who can be an asset to your organization.  However, on the flip side, Crawford also believes that, “It’s not really one of those careers that people set out to get into.” Instead, people usually get involved by volunteering or perhaps working with an organization, and then if a volunteer coordinator position opens up, their experience with volunteering may lead them to that direction in their career.  Though this is a difficult field, Crawford loves her job and ended our interview by saying, “It’s really rewarding because you are managing people who do this for the love of doing it, not because they are getting paid to do it.  You get to meet some the best people of your life.”

Special thanks to my two interviewees Carole Whisnant and Kelli Crawford. 

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