Scholarships for Student Volunteers

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Oct 08, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Volunteerism is not only great for the community, but it can also benefit young volunteers by creating opportunities for scholarships. Several programs exist to reward students for their service to the community and help them finance their higher education.  Here are a few examples of volunteer scholarships:
  • The Prudential Spirit of Community Award “is the United States' largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.”  This award is available to students in grades 5-12 who have engaged in community service and leadership over the last year.  The deadline for applications this year is November 5th, and the winners will be announced on February 11th, 2014.  Winners are selected on the local, state, and national level.  A special awards ceremony for state winners is held in Washington, DC.  A $5,000 award is given to winners who progress to the national level.  The Spirit of Community program encourages service on an international platform, awarding students in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, India, and China.

  • The Best Buy Scholarship Program awards 1,100 scholarships each year to high schools students who show strength in both academics and volunteerism.  The scholarship money is given for higher education.  In addition to academic records and extracurricular activities, students are asked to provide a record of their service-learning hours when applying.

    Students receive a scholarship from NobleHour for their volunteer service.
  • The Gloria Baron Prize for Young Heros annually recognizes 25 outstanding young leaders. The founder of the Barron Prize, author T. A. Barron, named it after his late mother Gloria. Gloria Barron was a teacher, a mother, and an active member of her community.  She dedicated her life to young people, encouraging her students to write their stories down and urging them to do something to better the world.  She believed in the power of the individual, particularly a young individual's ability to better the greater community. Young people across America can be nominated for the award after completing a service project that makes "a significant positive difference to people and our planet."  Nominations are accepted until April 30, and winners are announced late September.  Of the 25 selected, the top ten receive $5,000 to be applied to their higher education or to their service project, a recognition plaque, a signed copy of "The Hero's Trail" by T.A. Barron, and other awards. The Barron Prize seeks to recognize the inspiring work of young people.
  • The retail store Kohl’s offers the Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program for students aged 6-18 who have not yet graduated from high school.  The program has recognized 17,500 students and granted over three million dollars in scholarships.  Students are nominated and selected based on the impact their volunteer hours had on the community.  Winners from each store receive a $50 Kohl's Gift Certificate.  The most meaningful projects are selected from each region and awarded $1000, and national winners receive a $10,000 scholarship plus a donation of $1000 to a nonprofit valued by the student.  The award monies for region and national winners are used toward the student's higher education.  Nominations for the 2014 Kohls Cares Scholarship Program will be open from January 31-March 14, 2014.

    These are just some examples of scholarships for volunteers provided by private institutions, but several publicly funded programs also exist to recognize volunteerism:

    Several Government scholarships exist to award students for their service and help them pay for higher education.  AmeriCorps, a branch of the Corporation for National and Community Service*, encourages young people to dedicate a year to service working with a nonprofit, school, public agency, or community.  Students earn valuable skills, become civically minded, and gain experience valued in the workforce—where they are heading after their year of service.  For their volunteer work, students receive a small stipend to cover living expenses, since in dedicating all their time to volunteering, they have no other source of income.  They also receive benefits such as healthcare and childcare during their time as a volunteer.  Upon finishing a term of volunteerism, students are eligible to apply for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award*, which awards volunteer scholarship money to be put towards paying for higher education or repaying student loans.  The scholarship award is valued at the maximum Pell Grant during the year of service.  Members of AmeriCorps can receive up to two Education Awards if they volunteer for more than one term.  This program not only encourages young people to serve and become active and dedicated to a cause, it also helps them pay for their higher education.

  • The President’s Volunteer Service Award*, previously discussed on NobleHour, also recognizes volunteers who, alongside their daily lives, track hundreds of hours helping in the community.  Applicants are asked to produce some type of log as proof of their volunteer hours.  Tracking volunteer hours on using NobleHour’s hour-tracking software is a way to accomplish this.

Volunteer scholarships are a great opportunity to help reward and recognize students for their work and help them pay off their tuition.  What are some other ways students can use their talents to overcome the challenges of today’s rising tuition fees?

*For the time being, volunteers are unable to apply for these programs and awards due to the federal government shutdown. More information about the effects of the government shut down can be read in the Corporation for National and Community Service’s contingency plan.

Topics: volunteer management, service learning, education, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, youth impact, service, community, civic engagement, CNCS, graduates, opportunities, volunteering nonprofit, millenials, scholarships

A Student's Guide to Social Entrepreneurship

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 @ 10:10 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

In beginning this post about social entrepreneurship, I was very excited because it is such an exciting and inspiring focus.  However after tapping mindlessly on my keyboard and coming up short, I was faced the ultimate test of blogging in taking what social entrepreneurship means to me and translating it into what it means to the world.  As a writer I realized I was stuck on words to use, and as a learner I saw that my stuckness meant I had much to learn, so I began researching.  I proceeded to answer the question: What is social entrepreneurship?

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It was not too long until I found Ashoka, the largest global network of social entrepreneurs, had answers to my question.  Ashoka, with years of experiences building social entrepreneurship, explains that, “Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems . . . a role model proving that citizens who channel their passion into action can do almost anything . . . the citizen sector has discovered what the business sector learned long ago: There is nothing as powerful as a new idea in the hands of a first-class entrepreneur.”  Ashoka helps social entrepreneurs change the world by providing start-up funds, advice, and access to a worldwide network of support systems and volunteers.  They encourage individuals to innovate society by applying entrepreneurial skills to real-world problems.  I knew the topic of social entrepreneurship was exciting and inspiring, but I felt that as an explanation was too abstract, and I went on to find real world examples of social entrepreneurship changing the world. 

Reading about some of the world's greatest social entrepreneurs on PBS' “Meet the New Heroes”, I was touched.  Take Moses Zulu, who started Children's Town, an orphanage created to help children in Zambia whose "basic needs are unaffordable luxuries."  Taking in children who've lost their parents to AIDS, Children's Town cares for and educates these children to better their future with skills they'll use to find better jobs.  Meet Kailash Satyarthi in South Asia, who started his social entrepreneurship by leading raids into factories to liberate workers, particularly children, from a life of servitude.  Then there’s Mimi Silbert who started Delany Street Foundation to help house and rehabilitate people stuck in a life of crime.  In conjunction with education and counselling to help clients find jobs and lead successful lives free of crime, the residents work in the organization’s many businesses to generate revenue for the program, linking their success to the success of the organization.  The list of social enterprises goes on, and I found it extremely difficult to find just one—one that was the most impactful, most interesting, or most striking—to write about. Robert Redford speaks about "The New Heroes", a documentary about social entrepreneurs.

I wanted to know all of them.  To write about their causes and analyze their successes to help you see where your social enterprise might start, but I realized that I also have an English presentation to write today so there was not time to write a novel. The story of social entrepreneurship is innovative, inspiring, and incredibly heart wrenching.  Each opened my eyes to a world of suffering I hadn't known before, but also a world of hope. Social entrepreneurs take the downtrodden and use business concepts to empower the world.  Social entrepreneurship is rooted in the idea that filling tonight's hungry bellies and bandaging the day's wounds only leaves for more hungry bellies and broken bones tomorrow.  Aid and handouts are helpful in the present but also temporary and easily used up. Sustainable and innovative solutions tackle tomorrow's problems today. 

The education sector is realizing the mark social entrepreneurship is making.  A recent article “Social Entrepreneurship Is Bringing Purpose To Higher Education” explains how this process is unfolding.  With today’s academic inflations (see a great explanation of this process here)—and high tuition costs—, “students, parents and employers are all expressing doubt about the value of an undergraduate degree.”  To get the best value out of their education, students are increasingly drawn to social entrepreneur programs.  Programs that reconcile learning with passion and innovation: “ . . . teaching social entrepreneurship is a key part of solving this problem . . . Entrepreneurs are defined by their sense of drive and determination, their willingness to fail and then try again, and their vision for applying their learning in productive ways. Those also happen to be the characteristics of great learners.”  The article details some programs and fellowships that encourage university students to pursue their social enterprise goals.  These include Uncollege’s Gap Year program that encourages students to take a year off college in the name of social enterprise, ThinkImpact’s summer institutes, Brown University’s Swearer Center, and Middlebury’s Center for Social Enterprise.  In addition to knowledge, successful graduates will also need motivation and initiative to take what they have learned and use it to solve world problems.  The purpose of education is not just to make grades and past tests; it’s also for young people to develop the intellect and skills needed for lifelong success.  In the case of social entrepreneurship, success lies in synthesizing these skills with social responsibility, and embedding one’s success and passion in empowering others. 

Social entrepreneurs invest their talents in the world and the output is the happiness for both producer and consumer.  One of my favourite social entrepreneur teams is Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy and David Green. They started eye hospitals in Madurai, India, Nepal and United States to treat cataracts.  Green uses a term I love, “compassionate capitalism,” to explain social entrepreneurship: “Green is convinced that western capitalism has failed to grasp opportunities in the developing world . . . He says "compassionate capitalism" extracts a small amount of profit from each item sold, but generates a very high sales volume. In the process, it is possible to make available critical goods and services — like eye care — to billions of people” (“Meet the New Heroes”). 

In writing this post about social entrepreneurship I discovered that my understanding and mere awareness of the process was not enough.  I’ve found people who recognize the potential in the afflicted and find a way to pull success out of them.  In discovering the stories of the world’s change makers and learning from their determination and success, I’ve come to appreciate people not only for their talents, but how they impose their kindness on the cruel world to make it better.

“Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must be the joy of doing something beautiful.” -Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy

Images via Steve Jurvetson and Wil Kristin 

Topics: socent, social, education, community engagement, service, community, technology, economy, millenials, highered

Educating a Bully-Free Community: A student's perspective

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 @ 12:47 PM

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

I’ve been here too many times.  The lights are dimmed and shades drawn to allow the flashing white light of the television screen to illuminate the rows of students sitting, legs crossed, on the blue storytime carpet.  Necks crane uncomfortably at the television resting upon a tall, black, movable cart for teachers to easily move the schools technology, but also resulting in sore necks for students sitting at the feet of the stand.  Playing on the screen of a TV, older than most of its young viewers, is a scene familiar both in reality and fictitiously. It goes something like this: Billy pushes Kevin on the playground, claiming his turn at hopscotch has come early.  The playground children notice, and a few children begin to stand and watch.  Kevin runs away crying, giving the children more reason to laugh.  The clip cuts and someone, maybe a teacher or counselor, begins talking about it: bullying. 

A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Berea, Ohio via

It happens in every school.  Not just the incident between Kevin and Billy, but the response: the video, the tall TV, the stretched neck, and the ensuing discussion.  Perhaps it takes place in some other form with the video substituted by a different medium - like a book or a role play, but the cast is still the same: the bully, the victim, the bystanders, and in the happily-ever-after version, an upstander who stops the bully.  Tormenting another person is wrong; kids can see that without the theatrics.  However, it still goes on and horror stories in the news of kids literally being bullied to death have parents and teachers saying that enough is enough.  And so the array of bullying prevention programs keeps expanding.  Students have heard it all in assemblies, presentations, and class lessons.  The repetitiveness makes the term “bully” a little cliché in the eyes of students.  It seems like a word grown-ups use to explain something children experience.  Schools try to find different ways to convey anti-bullying messages, but, with anxieties continuing to rise about the issue, it seems none have found a concrete solution.  The programs designed to curve bullying often stem from the same set of principles, but often these programs lack success because they fail to take into account an open discussion with students before making drastic changes to school environment and student interaction.

Bullying is a problem because it is a traumatic experience for children that can haunt them into adulthood. has identified some of the effects of bullying on victims: “Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood [. . .] Health complaints [. . .] Decreased academic achievement.”  Targets of teasing and rumors are negatively affected by the emotional stress put on them, affecting their studies and outlook on life.  The news that puts parents on edge about their children possibly being bullied is that of suicides of bullied students.  Although this is not to be trivialized, the correlation between the two can be sometimes exaggerated. says the following on the matter: “Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history [. . .] This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools. Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.”  Students know these problems inside out, but the way schools try to handle these situations is sometimes not conducive to how students would prefer to see things change.

Recently, a school’s attempt to stop bullying online (cyberbullying) has sparked outrage among its students.  The students of Stockton High School in Stockton, California are protesting a school’s new policy calling for the creation of a Social Media Contract. The rule dictates that students who wish to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams and clubs must sign a contract promising to detach themselves from online bullying or face being kicked out of school clubs and sports.  The Lodi Unified School District claims that online bullying is a growing problem and that the new policy is to protect students.  Officials stand firmly behind the new rules.  Students, on the other hand, are not pleased.  Their objection to the contract is rooted in the idea that it restricts free speech.  The harshness and ambiguity of the wording are also major concerns of the students.  Sports, clubs, and outside activities are under the threat that “Big Brother” is watching.  Moreover, students who don’t involve themselves with extracurriculars are more likely to be bullies, and the protesting students feel discouraging their pupils from such activities is a step in the wrong direction.  Why does the rule only apply to some students and not all?  At the heart of it though, students feel they are essentially being bullied into agreeing to these terms by the school district.  Both feel that bullying is a problem, but are finding the solution cannot be forced.  Creating a safe, school environment free of harassment and prejudice takes the ideas and actions of both students and administrators.  

When children grow up, the bullies don’t go away.  The playground just gets bigger.  The situation replays with the same roles: the victim, the bully, and the rest of us watching silently.  Politicians alienate each other in campaign advertisements during elections.  The media bullies celebrities with rumors and criticism that drive some to substance abuse and depression.  Stereotypes, prejudice, domestic abuse, intolerance, genocide, etc.: these are all part of a greater reality in which people can be cruel to each other.  What is called bullying is just a small part of a greater pattern.  The world is not fair because people aren’t. How our culture approaches violence and injustice translates to how children will handle it on the playground.  Problems are easily identified but also easily exaggerated, and effective solutions are difficult. However, it starts with how individuals act and what each person tolerates as right or wrong.  Students are taught not to be passive bystanders, and people of all ages should lead by example.

Billy pushes Kevin on the playground.  The rest is up to you.  

Topics: policy, edtech, bullying, education, community engagement, millenials, social media

5 Ways Student Volunteering Can Help Your Job Search

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

It’s college graduation season, and many recent grads are contemplating what they will do next.  For some that means continuing with graduate school, but for many it means taking everything learned in the past four years and using it to pursue a career.  Regardless, this is a time full of decisions seemingly greater in importance than those made four years ago when graduating from high school.  Graduates are faced with finding jobs, managing thousands of dollars in student loans, finding a house or apartment to move out from your parent’s house, and starting a life after college.  The first step in most of this is finding a job to support yourself, but for many graduates it helps to have a resume built on a valuable, well-rounded experience in addition to a college degree. 

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Going to college should not just be listening to lectures and studying; it should be an experience where students gain the skills and experience they will need for life after graduation.  One way to gain experience is through volunteerism.  Even before college, many students begin volunteering to meet a graduation requirement, apply to an award or scholarship program, or to build their college applications.  However, volunteering does not end here, and most students who volunteer in high school continue to do so in college.  This is because volunteering is both rewarding and beneficial. 

Here are a few ways volunteering can help current students, graduates and job-seekers alike:

1. Improve as a person: Volunteering doesn’t have to be just about pursuing a career.  Volunteers also make friends, become more outgoing, and learn to appreciate the things they have and the people they care about.  Many volunteers just want to make a difference and feel good that they contributed to the community.  According to the United States Department of Labor, 42.2% of college graduates over the age of 25 volunteered, and that number is slowly rising. While many volunteers start out with a specific goal in mind, most will find volunteerism rewarding and valuable and, for this reason, continue to be engaged in their communities with it beyond graduation. 

2. Become a well-rounded individual: Volunteerism can help boost a resume for graduates seeking to build their experience in their chosen field.  For job-seeking graduates, a history of volunteerism shows employers that you are well rounded and involved in the community.  Being able to say you built houses with Habitat for Humanity or helped with disaster relief efforts says that you are concerned with something beyond yourself.  It demonstrates a sense of initiative that cannot be seen in simply listing a university name and degree. 

3. Earn experience and skills: Volunteering creates a host of experiences you can talk about in interviews.  Many graduates are just starting out and have little experience, but being able to talk about volunteer experiences can improve your chances and prove that you will make a valuable employee.  Countless applicants can talk about the courses they took and things they learned in university, but potential employers already have that knowledge and experiences.  Some important skills you’ll pick up by volunteering include teamwork, empathy, communication, commitment and leadership; all of which are qualities employers look for and experiences you can share during an interview.  Whatever your volunteer experience was, your story and background will stand out. 

4. Jumpstart your career: Sometimes it’s easier to find work experience pertaining to your career in the form of a volunteer opportunity than a part time position you can maintain while studying.  Do a little searching or contact the career center at your university to find out about volunteer or internship programs that will jumpstart you in developing your skillset for your career.  You’ll also develop contacts in your field that may be able to help you find a job later when you graduate or can serve as valuable references when you apply to other companies. 

5. Contribute to something you are passionate about: Perhaps you were strayed away from less “profitable” degrees in your college search by your parents or teachers and asked to pursue other interests and talents.  There’s still a chance to keep in touch with the things you enjoy doing.  Volunteering doesn’t have to be a chore like studying and attending class; it should be connected to a cause that interests you.  When looking for volunteer opportunities near you, find something you’ll enjoy and commit to. 

Congratulations to the class of 2013!  Make sure to become a NobleHour citizen to begin measuring the number of hours and the impact of your service work.  Use this to show employers the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to a cause that’s important to you, and then share how your story impacted the community and makes you stand out as a recent graduate. Track your Noble Impact here on NobleHour and see how it will enhance your life after graduation. 

Topics: education, volunteering, experience, service, graduates, millenials, job search, resume, highered

Millennial Volunteering Impact: More than the "Me Generation"

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, May 21, 2013 @ 09:41 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor and engaged Millennial, Natasha Derezinski-Choo

A great debate has arisen over the character of the next generation. People born after 1980 are defined as the “Millennial” generation because these young people, now in their teens and twenties, will be the first to come to the age of maturity in the new millennium.  This generation is also sometimes called Generation Y in reference to its succession of Generation X (1965-1980).  Analysts of this new generation are divided. Skeptics have deemed it lazy, narcissistic, and in an article by Tom Jacobs, downright delusional.  However, research also points to the fact that the average twenty-first century “youngster” is also more educated and accepting than his or her predecessor Generation X or parents, the Baby Boomer Generation.  The sweeping generalizations looking down upon Millennials are often one-sided and fail to account for the progressive nature and potential of young people.

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The article “Are millennials delusional?” by Tom Jacobs portrays Millennials in an unjustly negative manner.  Jacobs focuses on the consumptive and material expectations of young people to argue that they are unrealistic and, as the title suggests, delusional.  Work ethic and entitlement are two of the primary criticisms.  He quotes that teens are increasingly more expectant of material gain without having to put in the proper amount of effort.  Jacobs continues to analyze materialism as a “disturbing trend” among youth, supported by a study by psychologist and researchers Jean Twenge and Tim Kasser which found a rise in material concern through a survey that asked about the importance of owning possessions such as a new car or a house.  The article has some hypocritical implications.  It begins by gauging a generation’s personality based on its willingness to earn money, and then goes on to criticize it for its materialism.  In fact, the article does not address the other positive impacts that young people are making each day and only takes into account consumptive tendencies, while other negative portrayals also seek to criticize youngsters’ personalities.   

In the cover article for Time magazine, Joel Stein attacks the narcissistic nature of “The Me Me Me Generation”.  Stein opens with “the cold, hard data” stating that “the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health.”  However,  further studies contradict this idea: In “It Is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me" Brent W. Roberts. Grant Edmonds, and Emily Grijalva say that “that age changes in narcissism are both replicable and comparatively large in comparison to generational changes in narcissism. This leads to the conclusion that every generation is Generation Me, as every generation of younger people are more narcissistic than their elders”.  In Elspeth Reeve’s rebuttal of Stein’s article, she explains, in layman’s terms, that this means, “Basically, it's not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it's that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older.”  Like people, every generation of youth has its flaws and naiveties, but it would be highly inaccurate to deem any generation faulty without considering its revolutionary and progressive nature during its reign as “the next generation”.  

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Millennials should be praised for their innovative and forward-thinking demeanor.  Pew Research Center’s report entitled “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change” found that Millennials are more educated than their predecessors.  In 2009, males aged 18-28 reported 34% attained some college education and 15% had four-year degrees or higher.  This is a dramatic increase from the 25% the Baby Boomer males who received some college education and a significant increase from the 13% with four-year degrees or higher.  Female education saw an even greater increase.  In 1978, Boomers reported that 11% had four-year degrees.  In 1995, Generation X reported 15%, and in 2009 Millennials reported 20%, almost double the percentage of their parents.  Millennials are certainly not lazy or oblivious.  They are beginning to experience and change the world.  This generation is the most educated generation in American history, and will go on to becoming active and innovative problem-solvers in the new millennium.  

Despite economic hardships and difficulty finding employment in entering the workforce, young people are more likely to engage in volunteerism than previous generations.  The Pew Research Center found that 52% of Millennials reported volunteering in the past twelve months, more than the older generations surveyed.  Young people are innovative and impactful within the greater community.  Forbes’ article “How The Next Generation Of Wealth Is Revolutionizing Philanthropy As We Know It” asserts that “philanthropy extends far beyond just writing a check or lending your name to a charity. These individuals [millennials] have dedicated their lives to harnessing the venture capital mindset in order to ensure the success of their charitable giving.”  Millennials are revolutionizing  the nonprofit sector by not only donating funds, but also employing their time and energy to supporting charitable causes.  

Millennials’ progressive social and political outlooks will change the face of policy-making and adapt it to twenty-first century realities.  Millennials were reported to be more tolerant towards gay-rights, supportive of equal opportunities for minorities, and accepting of diversity of family structure, such as single-mother families or divorced parents.  Pew reported that youth were just as likely to take political action on these issues as their older counterparts.  Millennials are challenging the stereotype of laziness and apathy by making a Noble Impact through volunteerism and civic engagement.  

The next generation possesses some of the greatest tools to solve the great social, political, and economic crises being handed to them.  In this globalized world, the evolution of the Internet and improved communication will no doubt be an incredible tool in the Millennials' success.  Every generation is handed problems of the past.  In the last century, new generations faced, in brief terms, WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, and the Cold War.  Today it is terrorism, human rights, global warming, and the recessions of a post-industrial economy.  When faced with such conflicts, young people cannot help but be optimistic toward their potential.  Rather than putting them down, older generations should also begin to accept and cultivate the future because, regardless, it looks like you’re stuck with us. 

Topics: service learning, education, service, millenials

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