How Volunteering Can Help Students Choose a College Major

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

How do kids begin the process of choosing a college major? For some it’s an easy decision. Often, it starts with a specific interest or maybe they are exceptional in a particular subject. I remember in high school completing some sort of career questionnaire. It said my interests would align with communications or public relations. I figured, great! I like people and I like to talk. For me, communications was a great fit, but looking back, I do wish I had done more research about career paths for my major. 

Kids today have access to so much more information. College majors seem more defined and specialized now. When I went to college, I went in thinking I had at least two years to figure out my major. Many students now declare their major during the college admissions process. But how does an 18 year old really know what they want to do? How do they figure out all the potential careers one major can offer?

One way to help them figure it out is to volunteer. Community engagement can provide high school and college students with an opportunity to explore their interests or try something new.

“Kids who do community service see how they can apply their skills in different areas,” said Dan Van Dyke, a high school counselor for De La Salle Institute in Chicago, IL.

DSC 0039Van Dyke said when he asks students why they want to pursue a specific major; they usually reply that they are good in that subject. For example, a student good in Math wants to study Engineering, but he may not look further than the obvious career path. They don’t think about all the different options for their particular set of skills. Many students just don’t want to do the research.

However, Van Dyke said students who perform community service seem to have a better idea of what majors they want to pursue and will research them as part of their college admissions process. “I’ve seen kids who work at the Greater Chicago Food Depository or help the homeless, and they become interested in public policy or social work. They want to know how they can use their talents for social good. They are more motivated to do research about colleges and majors because they are exposed to different career options.”

Van Dyke has also seen students avoid certain majors because they don’t think it will lead to a career with a lucrative salary. Through student volunteering, they realize there are other rewards for specific careers. “Students that do community service with kids, come back with a feeling of accomplishment. They can see that they can make a difference and it’s very rewarding.”

Jennifer Walker, Director of Programs for Madison House, the student volunteer center at the University of Virginia, has seen similar circumstances with college students. “Some of our students want to pursue volunteering that is in their professional field of interest. For example, prospective teachers may want to get a better sense of what it is like to be in the classroom before they apply to graduate programs for teaching.”

For Allison and Sally-Rose Cragin, volunteering has always been a family affair. Their mom, Louise, instilled a love of helping others at an early age by encouraging them to volunteer at Krewe de Camp, an annual, one-week camp for children with special needs in Covington, Louisiana.

volunteering medical studentsAllison’s volunteer work at the camp and throughout high school not only confirmed her desire to work in medicine, but also influenced her decision to become a pediatrician. A 2012 graduate of Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Allison is currently in the UAB Pediatrics Residency Program, and continues to volunteer. “I was always interested in becoming a doctor, but I thought I would pursue surgery or research,” said Cragin. “Now I hope to be a pediatrician for children with special healthcare needs. The projects I did in college were definitely geared toward my interest in medicine.”

Sally-Rose’s decision to pursue her major was also a direct result of her experiences volunteering at Krewe de Camp. She is a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology studying American Sign Language Interpreter Education.

volunteer camp“Every year, since before I can remember, my mom brought me to help her at Krewe de Camp. When I was 8 years old, I met a girl named Katie who had Cerebral Palsy. She couldn't use her voice to speak so she used sign language. As soon as camp was over I asked my mom for some sign language books and dictionaries so I could learn how to communicate with Katie for the next summer. I can trace back my decision to go to RIT for interpreting to that day. I loved the feeling of being able to communicate with someone through a visual language and I wanted to be able to facilitate communication between people like Katie and other people who don't know her language.” 

Sally-Rose said her favorite part of high school was the community service work she was able to do during high school with Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans and summer camps like Camp Sertoma and Meadowood Springs Speech and Hearing Camp.

“When I graduate in May of 2015, I would love to do Educational Interpreting in some of the younger grades. I would really like to go to graduate school for a Masters Degree in Special Education with a focus in Deaf Education.”

DSC 0555Walker thinks it’s never too soon to begin student volunteering in the community. “It can provide an easy and free way for students to get an idea about their potential career path.”  

What are your children’s interests? Are they volunteering in areas they want to study in college? Not sure where to start, check out our guide to volunteering. 

Topics: education, volunteering, community engagement, community service, high school, service, civic engagement, college admissions, college applications, college major, involvement

How Volunteering and Service Can Help with College Admissions

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 06, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

By NobleHour Special Contributor, Dolly Duplantier

Look at any college admissions application and once you get past the demographics, the next top sections comprise grades, standardized test scores and activities.

High school volunteersWhile extracurricular activities and leadership skills have always been a part of the admissions process, universities are now looking more closely at an applicant’s community engagement and student volunteering record. However, before your high schooler starts racking up miscellaneous hours for some magical number, keep in mind that today’s college admissions counselors aren’t just looking for quantitative data. They want to know why your student is doing service work.

“We are seeing more and more high schools and middle schools require service hours,” said Vincent Ilustre, founding executive director of Tulane University's Center for Public Service (CPS). “We’re looking beyond that, for stellar community service activities.”

Ilustre said they make a distinction between filling a high school quota of 100-200 hours and long term sustained involvement. “We are looking for more depth in how they frame their activities. What is the rhyme and reason? Why did the student take on a particular project? We look into what they do, but it’s not the only thing that dictates if they get in.”

Tulane is nationally known for its own service curriculum. “We are a leader in terms of how we look at public service and what our students do here,” said Faye Tydlaska, the school’s director of undergraduate admissions. “We award approximately 20 Community Service Scholarships each year, and those students go on to be Fellows in our Center for Public Service once they are at Tulane.”

Tulane created CPS in response to the numerous community projects going on after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. University officials understood first hand that public service rooted in an academic context would contribute to the development of student civic engagement. Tulane has won numerous awards for their efforts to serve the New Orleans community.

“Most higher educational institutions now have offices similar to Tulane’s Center for Public Service,” said Ilustre.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities personal and social responsibility are core elements of a 21st century education. A recent survey of its nearly 1,300 members revealed that many institutions are placing more emphasis on civic education.

Tydlaska agrees that more and more of Tulane’s peers are focusing on public service. For student volunteering to have a true impact, Tulane looks for deep, ongoing community engagement. Students concentrating on one or two projects for a couple of years will get noticed as opposed to those just completing tasks for service hour requirements.

“We make a distinction between requirements for school and something above and beyond,” she said. “We look at their level of involvement in their projects. For example, are they organizing a can drive or just collecting cans?”

“Most students going to elite universities are coming from high schools that require service,” said Ilustre. “So you have to be able to synthesize why.”

Ilustre would like to see high schools encourage their students to be  about their projects. It’s not just about reporting hours anymore. Students who stand out are able to talk more about what they are learning. They can reflect on their activities, discuss the impact of their service and why it is important to them and their community. A deeper level of community service will make them stand out.”

Many factors come into play in determining whether or not an applicant is accepted. “We look at how much interest a student shows in the university, why they want to attend Tulane, and letters of recommendation among other things,” said Tydlaska.

Student volunteering could potentially help an applicant that is on the fence. If two students are academically the same, Ilustre said the one dedicated to community service would have a better chance of being admitted.

Tydlaska suggested that if students are interested in volunteering, they should look for opportunities involving their own interests. The first year or two of high school are a good time to explore different topics. “Start early on and then focus on one or two main issues or projects.”

Ilustre agreed. “Freshman year is a great opportunity to explore what’s out there. Students should sample different types of activities or topics that really interest them and then take it a step further. “

As students mature, they should find a specific project or issue that is important to them. They should research organizations that support their interests. Students who want to stand out will delve deeper and get more excited about their community engagement. 

Ilustre also believes being passionate about a specific cause or issue could help students determine where they want to go to college and what they want to study. “If you have a particular interest, see if there are colleges that can support your passion.”

Tydlaska has seen all sorts of civic engagement in the applications that cross her desk - from students working locally with Habitat for Humanity to going abroad to help children and adults in need.

”You don’t need to go across the world. What’s important is that you find what you are passionate about. Go with your passion whether it’s local, regional, national or international.” - Faye Tydlaska, Tulane University

Both Tydlaska and Ilustre agree that it’s not necessarily important where you do your community service. ”You don’t need to go across the world,” he said. “What’s important is that you find what you are passionate about. Go with your passion whether it’s local, regional, national or international.”

global volunteeringTydlaska adds that whatever type of student volunteering is chosen, it should be authentic. “If it’s not authentic, don’t pursue it. If your passion is sports, writing, music, etc. - pursue your talent in those areas.”

“It’s really heartwarming and encouraging to see so many students engaged in community service and wanting to make a difference,” said Tydlaska. “We see some extraordinary students. They’ve done a host of incredible things. Some have started non-profit races for specific causes. These are fully civic engaged students.”

Do you want to help your son or daughter become more engaged in student volunteering and community service? Check out the NobleHour website for service opportunities, as well as ways to track hours and reflect on volunteering experiences.  Has your high school student’s community engagement made a difference in his or her college applications? Tell us how.



Topics: service learning, volunteering, community service, high school, civic engagement, graduates, college admissions, college applications, involvement

Get Outdoors: Active Volunteering Helps Everyone

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

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

Over the last quarter of a millennium, humans have moved indoors.  Beginning in 1750 with the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, a gross migration began to occur when people from rural, outdoor, farming communities moved to cities.  Now, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. In the early stages of industrialization, people were moving to cities for factory work. Now, in the post-industrial economies of the developed world, people have moved up from the factories and are working in office spaces, living stationary lifestyles under fluorescent lights.  Students spend most of the school day inside.

With the invention of universal education that came with industrialization, children have also been brought inside. Education inflation has caused young people not only to spend school hours inside, but also to spend more time inside studying, with everyone sinking down in front of the TV or computer when the long, tiring day is over.  Today, we see less-developed countries experiencing the same lifestyle shift that brought us indoors.  

Now, I’m not romanticising life before the “Great Indoor Migration”, because I think it has ultimately improved our lives.  Without this shift I would probably be spending my day harvesting crops, cleaning the house, and thinking about getting married in five years. Instead, I’m going to school and hoping in five years to start a life and career for myself.  The fact of the matter is that we are now living indoors more, and it’s time to spend a little time being active outside.

The fun, animated video “What if You Stopped Going Outside?” describes health risks and problems that could arise from not spending enough time outside - including osteoporosis, depression, and even cancers. 

Furthermore, the Harvard Health Letter gives some of the benefits of spending time outside. These benefits include getting more vitamin D, more exercise, a happier life, better concentration, and a better healing time in the event of injury (you can read more about how sunshine and fresh air help these processes). Being outside feels good and is good for you. Being outside and being active go hand in hand with being healthier and happier, but the main problem facing most people is finding time to be more active.  Volunteering outdoors is a great way to merge outdoor activities with community engagement. You will be impacting the community by volunteering and helping yourself by being active.

A nature trail is a great place to volunteer.

While out in nature, you are inevitably active.  Hiking, climbing, and running are all ways we interact with nature while being active.  It is also important to protect the environment around us so it can sustain us and an active lifestyle. Volunteering with organizations concerned with the environment is a great way to get active and volunteer. Some outdoor environmental projects could entail planting a community or urban garden or helping clean up a river, beach, highway, or nearby park. To find these types of opportunities, look up local parks and environmental organizations. Remember not only to keep it outdoorsy and active, but to keep it local too. Part of being more active is also getting out of those cars and using your legs as transportation.  Cars pollute the environment, so if you are trying to improve the environment and enjoy your time outdoors, do your best not to pollute it even more.  Plus, you’ll have a direct impact on your own local community.  

Sports are another way people enjoy their time outdoors.  Walks and marathons are common fundraising events, and nonprofits are always in need of volunteers to register runners, hand out water, stand along the route and encourage the racers.  For example, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the States are two runs held to support breast cancer research and breast cancer survivors.  Right now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the events are held year round. Local organizations may also hold fundraising races for local causes. In Greensboro, NC, an event call the Chicken Walk will take place next month to raise money to help the Interactive Resource Center, a local resource that helps people experiencing homelessness, keep its doors open.  A fantastic woman named Amy Murphy began the project by taking chicken that restaurants were throwing away, and feeding it to the homeless, who she refers to as her “friends downtown.”  If you are in the area, find out more about this year’s inaugural Chicken Walk. Volunteering with athletics is a great way to help with an important cause, but volunteering actively can also mean supporting the cause of physical activity and exercise itself.  

Volunteer coaching is a great way to stay active and make a difference in your local community.

Volunteer coaching or hosting a field day are both great ways to get outdoors.  Not only will you be active, get outside, and have fun, but you’ll also bring the importance of being active to children growing up in the “Great Indoor Migration”. You’ll become a positive mentor and leader to the kids you work with. You can inspire them to lead healthier lives, develop sportsmanship, and enjoy just being a kid.  To find these kinds of opportunities, team up with local schools, parks, and recreation centres to get involved or to pioneer your own program geared toward fitness.  

What are some ways you are tracking your Noble Impact™ by getting active outdoors? 

Classroom image via FotoPedia

Topics: social, outdoors, service learning, volunteering, community engagement, youth impact, millennials, community, America, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, active

6 Service Ideas for Halloween

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 @ 09:30 AM

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

The season’s spookiest holiday is just around the corner, but let’s not forget that the scariest things in life don’t come out on Halloween night.  Can you imagine what it would be like to not have have a house, to not have food, to not have clean water, to not have a school to go to, or not to have a family?  Facing life’s toughest challenges and uncertainties is scary.  This Halloween, apart from the ghosts and the jack-o'-lanterns, try to imagine what really scares you and find ways to impact your community and help people in dire situations. Why not celebrate this year with these service ideas

Pumpkins carved for Halloween.

  1. Costume Event Fundraiser:  Host a Halloween party and ask your friends to each bring a small donation for a local nonprofit.  If your school doesn’t allow costumes, see if this year the rules can be broken for a good cause.  Talk to your principal about letting students come in their spooky attire provided they donate to your fundraiser.  If every student in your school donated a dollar, or even a quarter, how much could you raise while still having fun? You could even expand the event by having a whole week of fundraising with a Halloween-related theme for each day.  

  2. Neighborhood Trick-or-Treat Food Drive:  Trick-or-treating is a precious memory.  For me, I always remember my cousins and I precariously huddled together, walking up to the houses with the scaries decorations (and the best candy) only to run back down the driveway screaming at whatever creature had popped out as us. However, it was all worth it when we returned home with sacks of candy.  But with all those bags of candy, I never finished them all.  Instead of collecting candy for yourself, help someone in need by asking your neighbors to give you canned and dried food when you come knocking on their doors.  Try to get as many peers to participate in your efforts to greater the collective impact of just one night of trick-or-treating.  For tips on how to start a program like this in your neighborhood, read about Free the Children’s We Scare Hunger Program. 

  3. Donate a Costume: Bring the fun and scares of Halloween to someone in need by donating old or outgrown costumes that you don’t need anymore.

  4. Pumpkin Crafts: A fun way to celebrate Halloween is by decorating pumpkins.  Share this experience with others by volunteering to help children carve their own Jack-o-Lantern. You could read stories to the children about Halloween and make Halloween decorations out of construction paper if the pumpkins are too messy.  You could also volunteer at a senior citizen home and decorate pumpkins with them.  These crafts could be carving up the pumpkin to create a traditional jack-o'-lantern, or just decorating pumpkins on the outside with paint, glitter, ribbons, etc. and putting them in the seniors’ rooms.  Paint half your pumpkins black and create a large checkers board to play pumpkin checkers.  The smaller pumpkins are ideal for these types of projects because they are easier to work with,  less expensive, and everyone can have one.  

  5. “Trick or Treating for UNICEF”: Beginning in 1950, children have been collecting spare change on Halloween night to collect money to help UNICEF provide basic needs for children worldwide. The first campaign, started by a group of schoolchildren in Philadelphia, raised $17, but in the 60+ years of the program, children trick-or-treating in the United States have raised almost $160 million.  The program has not only been successful to help children abroad, but it educates children on global issues; participating in the program “has given US children, along with their parents and teachers, the opportunity to learn about their peers worldwide who are truly in need” of necessities such as “ medicine, better nutrition, safe water, education, [and] emergency relief.”  This program is about children helping other children in the world.  To find out how to volunteer this Halloween through this program, click here.  

    Halloween Candy

  6. Halloween Safety:  Halloween is fun, but it’s also important for children, especially younger ones, to be aware of how to be safe while walking in the streets at night.  Educate youngsters by creating a fun presentation about Halloween safety.  Perhaps design a skit about what to do and what not to do.  Be sure to emphasize points like staying in a group, crossing the streets carefully, denying invitations into people’s houses, and staying on streets you are familiar with.  Plan a safe Halloween event by hosting Halloween events where children can have fun, be scared, and stay safe.  Here’s an example of a project done by one high school: “With the goal of providing a safe environment for children to go trick-or-treating, Sycamore (Ill.) High School Student Council hosts a unique activity on Halloween. They contact a local retirement center and arrange to have trick-or-treaters visit on Halloween. Student council members provide candy to participating residents and decorate their doors to indicate which rooms children may visit. The trick-or-treaters are escorted around the building by council members.”  Similar project ideas can be found here.  

What volunteer service projects will you participate in this Halloween?

Image Attribution:

Candy Corn

Topics: halloween, trick-or-treat, service learning, volunteering, community engagement, youth impact, millennials, service, opportunities, involvement

Shy or Introverted Students: You can be a leader

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 @ 08:30 AM

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

The five-year-old Natasha was an imaginative little girl living in her own little world.  She played by herself or with her cousins, living comfortably in Neverland until she was thrown into the big wide world: school.  She went through pre-school with her cousin—where the two of them only talked to each other—and spent junior and senior kindergarten (we had two years of kindergarten) mostly keeping to herself the whole time.  She lived within her imagination.  She was scared to talk to people she didn’t know.  Then, at five, she started grade one where she barely knew anyone.  In her new school, everyone could read, but the five year old Natasha didn’t.  From the start she didn’t do very well in class, but luckily her teacher realized her potential.

In grade one, my teacher gave me a green, apple-shaped timer to set when I started my homework, because I struggled with managing my time and finishing my assignments.  On it she wrote, “Natasha, you can do it!” and I did. In time, and with my mom’s help, I learned how to read, and I studied and became self-disciplined.  By the end of the year I was doing much better.  Ten years later, and my peers don’t believe that I used to make D's on those very first report cards because I’ve managed to do pretty well in school. All because of those little words of encouragement, I’ve learned there’s nothing stopping me from my determination.   School Classroom image via

By my freshman year of high school, school came easily to me, but inside I was still the shy little girl again - in a new school of 1,700+ students where I only knew four people.  My quietness was still holding me back.  My best friend wrote me a note in the beginning of the year when I was afraid to talk to someone who intimidated me, and on it those same words from grade one occupy the whole page: “You can do it.”  That was the day I stopped being shy.  Little by little, I shed my inner silence.  I started talking to people outside my comfort zone.  I joined clubs at school and even ran for office in one. I volunteered.  I spoke up, and the whole time I was still just as scared as before, but I did it all anyway. I feel like I’ve become a better leader and person because of it.  Overcoming my shyness has been one of my biggest personal challenges because it’s something I had to figure out by myself, but today it’s resulted in the confident young woman looking back at me in the mirror.

The green-apple timer doesn’t ring anymore because it must have been dropped a few too many times, and when I shake it the pieces inside rattle about.  The message written in Sharpie is faded, but I still keep it and the note because they remind me of how much I’ve grown in my short time on earth.  However, this story is not about my accomplishments, or telling you how great I am—because I have flaws too.  It’s about how I see my own shyness in my peers all the time, and how just a little bit of encouragement would give them the courage to speak up and share the brilliant ideas hiding behind their quietness.  Let this be my “You can do it” to every shy person (but if you aren’t shy keep reading too).

Students help create a more sustainable community.

Being shy can keep students from becoming more active in extracurriculars like sports, clubs, and service-learning.  Timidity can keep us from achieving our goals because being a bit timid and shy is about fearing speaking up both in our words and our actions.  An idea can be entertained in your head, but for it to come to fruition, you need to speak up.  Maybe something inspires an idea in you that could solve a problem in your environment.  Perhaps you think of how to change something in your community like homelessness, hunger, the achievement gap, poverty, or clean water, but that idea is just a thought until you make it a reality.  That takes courage, and it takes confidence in yourself and your abilities. 

If you feel like your shyness inhibits you, I challenge you this week to speak up just once.  Ask just one question in class.  Ask a teacher for help if you’re struggling.  Talk to someone outside of your usual group of friends.  Find out from your peers how you can join an organization at your school and become involved in something that interests you.  Call one local nonprofit and ask about volunteering.  Think of something you’ve always wanted to do, and if the only thing keeping you from it is your fear of speaking up, then challenge yourself to do it anyway.  Sometimes it’s the scariest things that end up being the best things.

Confidence often appears as being loud and fearless.  However, confidence in fact is not how we interact with others.  It’s how you interact with yourself, and how you learn to believe in yourself.  We seek the approval of others before our own, and confidence is learning to be comfortable with your own self-approval.  I’m so grateful that along the way I’ve had people who, in four little words, believed in me and gave me the approval I thought I needed, but I realized all I needed was to find the nerve to believe in myself.

Susan Cain’s book Quiet talks about the power of introverts where she challenges the negative connotations behind the characterization of an introvert.  She talks about how we live in a world where being bold, outgoing, and sociable are valued most, and being quiet and thoughtful are not considered useful.  Everyone is both intrapersonal and interpersonal, but we typically lean naturally toward one more than the other.  With the immutable babble of some successful, loud extroverts we often tune out people who are quiet.  However, Cain suggests that introverts actually make better leaders than extroverts because they are better listeners and can lead more productive groups.  Don’t see your quietness as a weakness; see it simply as part of who you are.

Being quiet isn’t something to be ashamed of.  It’s something to be embraced because it means you bring something different to the table.  Don’t change yourself into someone you think you should be, but sprout into the person you want to be.  

For me, overcoming my shyness wasn’t about changing who I am.  I’m still very much the imaginative little girl from preschool, but I’ve grown up and developed my ability to communicate who I am to the world.  As much as I love my friends and activities that challenge me to speak up, my favorite time of day is between 2:30-5:30am when I can be by myself, entertaining the constant soliloquy in my head.  If you aren’t a shy person, I challenge you to realize that speaking up is not as easy for some people as it is for you.  I challenge you to be the green-apple timer in someone’s life, and if you’re like me and are shy, I implore you to adopt the mantra: You can do it. 

Topics: volunteering, engagement, leadership, introvert, shyness, involvement

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

Students Advocate Service-Learning in North Carolina Schools

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Sat, Oct 05, 2013 @ 10:30 AM

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

What does it take to get teenagers to come to school on a Saturday morning?  After spending approximately forty hours at school each week plus time after school doing homework, I like having Saturdays for myself, and I think most students would agree.  In the average Millennials’ world, plagued by educational inflation and constant mantras to work harder, become smarter, and test better to get into college, free time is golden.  So golden, you’d think young people would keep it all to themselves, but of course young people are also using their time to do a world of good.  Which is why on a Saturday morning students representing high schools across Guilford County woke up early and came to school to learn about service learning.  

The Guilford County Schools (GCS) Character Education Department and the GCS Service-Learning Youth Council hosted the event, held at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, NC—just outside of Greensboro, NC—.  In Guilford County, students are strongly encouraged to engage in service learning.  If, over the course of high school, students log 100 service learning hours they receive an Exemplary Award upon graduation, and if students track 250 hours they receive a Service-Learning Diploma.  This program encourages young people to play an active role in their community.  Service-learning is not only important for these students while in high school, but also to build experience when applying to universities and living better lives after graduation

Service-Learning Ambassadors Track Service Hours with NobleHourSaturday’s Service-Learning Ambassador Training was focused on educating students on how to be Service-Learning Ambassadors.  Of the 25+ high schools in Guilford County, each school was invited to send up to five of their most dedicated students to learn about advocating for service learning among their peers. Additionally, schools could send two students who’d already been trained as Service-Learning Ambassadors to facilitate the training and workshops.  

Students learned how to engage in service learning and how meaningful volunteerism can facilitate a more well-rounded educational experience.  Students rotated in groups to attend several workshops to help them bring service learning back to their schools.  Organizations such as the Poetry Project, Habitat for Humanity, Horsepower, and many other local non-profits met with students to tell them about exciting opportunities they can get involved with.  Students also learned about the importance of youth voice in their actions and words.  Youth empowerment was an important focus of this particular workshop, demonstrating to young people the power and change they can unleash by engaging in volunteerism.  Working together, the Character-Education Department, experienced Service-Learning Ambassadors, and NobleHour’s own Keara Ziegerer trained students in the use of NobleHour’s hour-tracking software to help them track their impact in the community and progress toward their Service-Learning Diplomas. However, the goal of the program was not only to educate students about service learning, but also for them to take this knowledge back to their schools and cultivate service programs, hence the name Service-Learning Ambassadors.  As Ambassadors, students are not only working to be active in their community for their diplomas but are also active in their schools helping other students become more aware of the importance of service.

Guilford County students display their service-learning projects.

After the seven-hour program, students were tired and exhausted, but better for it.  Students ended the day reflecting on what they’d learned.  Senior Meredith Wettach commented, “I was so inspired to see all the students that are truly dedicated to giving back to our community.”  This week all these students will return to school—though probably not on Saturday for quite some time—and try to better themselves and peers.  They will become leaders.  

Last year, when I attended the training for the first time, it was in the early beginnings of my journey of committing to volunteerism.  As I reflect on the past year, I realize I have grown the most as a person in that time, and becoming a more confident leader and better individual are definitely in part the result of my service learning projects.

I’m inspired to see so many students taking initiative not only in their communities and schools but also in their own education.  Particularly, with the political unrest over budget cuts here in North Carolina, I’m glad to see that service learning has not been forgotten, and I wish more aspects of a complete, well rounded education were preserved for our generation in the face of economic hardship.  

At the end of the day, my hope is that students did not only come out of the training with a simple understanding of service learning and how hours are tracked, but with the knowledge that their time is as good as gold and that the number of hours one puts in is immeasurable compared to committing yourself to reach your own potential.   

Topics: volunteer management, service learning, volunteering, experience, community engagement, youth impact, millennials, community, civic engagement

Connect to your Community with NobleHour's free Organization Profile

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 @ 12:57 PM

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

NobleHour is a growing network of organizations and members, and we want you to be part of the great work our members are finding and tracking here on NobleHour.  In today’s digital world, online presence is fundamental for any group or organization hoping to expand and succeed. Creating a free Organization Profile increases your visibility online by promoting your organization and connecting with an established network of individuals and communities.  

Screen_Shot_2015-01-12_at_12.13.25_PMIt combines the exposure of a Facebook Page, the customizability of a website, and the simplicity of a business card on a network of motivated individuals looking to improve the world.  An Organization Profile is ideal for local non-profits, businesses, schools, clubs, etc. looking to expand their outreach by increasing their presence online.  On NobleHour it’s easy and free for an organization to make itself visible and accessible to potential volunteers, interns, members, and employees, and expand your connectedness online by linking your NobleHour to social networking.  Organization Profiles allow you to build connections with people interested in being part of your success.  Learn how starting your free Organization Profile today can benefit your organization.

Creating an Organization Profile is free and simple.  Start by logging into NobleHour or creating a NobleHour account and clicking on the Organizations tab.  On the left select Add Organization and fill out information about the organization you represent to begin creating your profile.  A more detailed explanation can be found at the NobleHour Help Center.  With basic information about your organization filled out, you are ready to start personalizing your profile and expanding your outreach.  With the basics filled out, it’s time to explore the functions and benefits of an Organization Profile.

The first tab from the right, the Overview Tab, allows you to display basic information about your organization including a brief description, a mission statement, the type and category of your organization, location, and the ability to upload your organization’s logo to appear on your profile.  Any of this information can be easily edited by simply clicking of each category, updating it, and hitting save.  This is the first page a NobleHour citizen browsing your profile will see and the well-organized, concise display of information makes it easy to quickly get a sense of what your organization is about.  The Overview tab is customizable to non-profits, corporate companies, and everything in-between.  As it could be a NobleHour citizen’s first impression of your organization, the simplicity and adaptability of the Overview tab allows your online presence on NobleHour to accurately and fully reflect the goals and purpose of your organization.  Potential volunteers and applicants easily flip through and learn about organizations on the NobleHour network, and by connecting your Organization to NobleHour you will also connect with motivated NobleHour citizens.

Share opportunities on your free NobleHour Organization Profile

The second tab on an Organization Profile is Opportunities.  Editing content on this tab allows you to post opportunities related to your organization.  Each time you create an Opportunity, a unique Opportunity code accompanies it so you can pass this on to members of your Organization for them to see more information about the Opportunity and track hours.  As an Admin for the Organization you will be notified when a member has submitted hours to verify.  When publicizing your opportunity on NobleHour, you can specify the type of opportunity, qualifications, location, time, contact information, and other important details potential participants need to know.  NobleHour citizens logged in on your area will see your posting on their NobleHour accounts even if they are not yet members of your organization, allowing you to link up with volunteers and applicants by sharing programs, events, and jobs.  Admins also have the opportunity to share Opportunities via Facebook, Twitter, and email, increasing your outreach online.  Opportunities are versatile and manageable.  They are applicable to short-term or long-term positions, and can be used to promote anything from volunteer to internship to paid job positions.

The next two tabs are the News and Contact Tab.  The News tab allows Admins to post update and news.  It gives you the ability to keep members of your organization  updated on news and events on your own personal news page.  The News page looks much like the Noble Blog page, allowing members to comment and share your news updates. The Contact tab is a mode of communication for online users looking for more information about your organization.  These two tabs create a two-way street of communication between an organization and its members.  The News page lets the Organization announce information and the commenting or contact features allow members to respond.  On these four tabs—Overview, Opportunities, News, and Contact—Admins are able to conveniently post and edit content.  The information is presented on the NobleHour network the same way it appears to the Admin so when contributing or sharing content, it is presented the same way it was created allowing organizations to clearly see how they are being represented online.

Members can contact your organization through your free profile.

A Organization Profile becomes universal by allowing you to share the content you post on NobleHour elsewhere on the internet via Facebook, Twitter, and Email.  This feature links the different ways your organization networks online.  As an administrator of an Organization Profile, you have one additional tab on your profile that lets you adjust settings for your profile.  It also allows you to manage the membership of your Organization Profile, add other admins, and verify hours.  The free Organization Profile allows a great deal of freedom when connecting within the NobleHour network.  However, to benefit from more features on NobleHour, you can at anytime upgrade to a Community.  For more information on the differences between Organization capabilities and Communities, read What is the Difference between an Organization and Community?”  


Topics: business, service learning, volunteering, outreach, community, opportunities, nonprofit

America's Civic Health: How Volunteering and Service Shape our Nation

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Jul 03, 2013 @ 10:57 AM

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

Service is a key factor in a person’s individual health and well-being. Service can mean fulfillment in one’s life, which contributes to a more peaceful state of mind and overall happiness.  However, service is not just about the effects it has on an individual, but more importantly how the actions of several individuals can affect the greater community and the nation.  To analyze the health and well-being of the nation,“the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) hosts the most comprehensive annual collection of information on Volunteering and Civic Life in America and partners with the National Conference on Citizenship to produce an annual report of our nation’s civic health.”  The key findings of this report show that increased volunteering and service are the result of the work of millions of volunteers dedicated to their communities. Flag of the United States of America

For the purpose of the study the CNCS collects its data from the “Current Population Survey (CPS) Volunteer and Civic Supplements conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).”  The data collected attests to the volunteer work of people aged 16 and up.  The CNCS formally identifies volunteers as “individuals who performed unpaid volunteer activities through or for an organization at any point during the 12-month period, from September 1 of the prior year through the survey week in September of the survey year.”  The report sheds positive news on the state of volunteerism, indicating that everyday people are helping overcome greater challenges by volunteering.  

In recent years, volunteers have stepped up to the challenge of meeting the needs of disadvantaged community members.  According to the report, volunteers engaged in several popular areas of service to meet their community’s needs. These include: fundraising (26.2%), feeding each other (23.6%), giving labor or transportation (20.3%), and educating students (18.2%).  All this work totals to about 7.9 billion hours of volunteerism.  The numbers are clear. Volunteerism contributes to a greater sense of community.  It creates neighborhoods and cities where people care for one another, help one another, and support one another; this shows in the 41.1% of people who trust most of the people in their neighborhood and the 15.6% who say they trust everyone in their neighborhood. When people help each other and rely on each other, the build trust between each other and feel safer in their surroundings.

A young American volunteers in construction.

The report also found an increase in volunteers in response to the devastating affects of Hurricane Sandy.  Volunteering is the greatest contribution and individual can give to a community because it asks of a person to give of themselves what they find missing in the world around them.  With two out of three people reporting they served by doing favors for neighbors, this builds a correlation between volunteerism and better communities.  In a world where technology can make it easy to isolate oneself from the outside, people have not lost what it means to be human by continuing to volunteer.  

In addition to a greater sense of community, mass volunteerism is also conducive to family life. With almost 90% of volunteers reporting they eat dinner with their family a few or more times a week, close families are fitting with a civically engaged population.  High rates of volunteering are found among parents, with parents being more likely to volunteer than non-parents in the same age group.  Parents are most often volunteering at organizations to help their children such as schools or youth services.  The top five states where parents volunteer include Utah, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and “working mothers are a key part of volunteering parents, as nearly four in 10 (38%) volunteered.”  The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind when contemplating these stats.  Parents, in response to shortages in funding for schools and children’s programs, dedicate themselves and extending their parental commitments to the greater community.  Volunteerism is not only increasing, but it is also increasing for the betterment of children.  Additionally, parents who volunteer will likely influence their children to also volunteer as youth and later in their lives.  

A student volunteering in the community.

By presenting these statistics, CNCS encourages everyday people to take part in their communities so that the rate of volunteerism will continue to rise along with the civic health of the nation.  They encourage you to take part by following the example of the millions of parent volunteers to help youth.  This can be done by donating time, resources, and encouragement to improving the self-esteem and education of young people.  The CNCS also suggests taking part in disaster relief efforts or helping veterans and senior citizens. A list of local volunteer opportunities can be found on NobleHour.

The proof that volunteerism and civic engagement are rising is encouraging.  If volunteering rates are improving, the communities are improving, and individuals are working together toward a greater cause.  For once, one should be encouraged to “follow the crowd” and engage in civic service. By doing so, each individual can contribute to a “culture of citizenship, service, and responsibility” that successfully tackles everyday issues within a community.  Sometimes as a volunteer, it’s easy to wonder if one person can truly make an impact.  Cumulatively, the impact is clear.  People steadfastly working together is making for communities where people trust each other, depend on each other, and befriend each other.  The results are back and the nation’s civic health is doing well.  The numbers are good, and they can only get better.  Keep searching on NobleHour for ways to cultivate and raise volunteerism.  

“Imagine all the people sharing all the world . . . And the world will live as one.” –John Lennon, “Imagine”

Topics: service learning, volunteering, experience, community engagement, service, community, America, civic engagement, parents, CNCS

NobleHour Awards Scholarships for Students' Volunteer Service

Posted by Keara Ziegerer on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @ 04:56 PM

On Sunday, NobleHour awarded three scholarships to students at Guilford County Schools’ annual “Cool to Serve” event. Hundreds of graduates attended the event, which celebrated the class of 2013’s service-learning accomplishments.

NobleHour Service-Learning Scholarship Winners

Jose Oliva received the NobleHour Platinum Award - $1,000 for having the "Most Impactful Service-Learning Project", Austin Elmore won $500 for the "Best Social/Global Impact Service-Learning Project, and Billy Hawkains won $250 for the Best Community/Civic Engagement Service-Learning Project. 

“...For me, helping people is not about awards, money, hours or anything,” said Oliva in an interview with The News & Record. 

“...When I think about service, I think about people smiling.”

To date, Guilford County students have logged more than 250,000 hours using NobleHour. In addition to the scholarships, students who served more than 225 hours earned a Service-Learning Diploma, and those with more than 100 hours received a Service-Learning Exemplary Award. In order to qualify for recognition, the students’ service must be unpaid, address a community need, and include investigation, preparation and planning, action, reflection, and demonstration components. NobleHour facilitates these requirements through its comprehensive database, hour tracking, and reflection tools.

“By using NobleHour we are able to capture the economic impact our students make within the community.” said Yvonne Foster, Character Development & Service-Learning Coordinator for Guilford County Schools.

The event was put on by the GCS Character Development team, which promotes character education, civic education, and service learning in order to “equip students with the tools and motivation necessary to be the change they wish to see in the world.”

"It is such a heartwarming feeling to see youth involved and for the right reasons!" said Foster.

Guilford County Schools&squot; "Cool to Serve" event









Image via The News & Record

About NobleHour

NobleHour is based in Lakeland, FL and was started by a team of knowledgeable business investors, representing over 70 years of unparalleled entrepreneurial and business experience. They developed in 2005 as an online service learning management platform for students and schools. SweatMonkey was used by countless organizations such as the YMCA, the SPCA, the United Way of North Central Florida, and the University of Florida. SweatMonkey was rebranded and launched in 2012 as, an engaging online community platform that includes content sharing, a database of volunteer and job opportunities and events, hour tracking tools for tracking community service hours, and community impact measurement tools. NobleHour's mission is to provide an engaging platform to help connect people with their communities to empower civic engagement. For more information visit



Topics: service learning, education, volunteering, k12, service, graduates

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