RALEIGH, N.C. — Volunteering has the potential to turn boredom and free time this summer into life skills that look good on college applications and high school transcripts, not to mention building character and community awareness that can last for life.
What You Need To Know
Many schools and organizations have a requirement for logging a certain amount of volunteer hours
Because of the requirement, students may feel obliged to serve rather than sacrificing willingly
Parents created an app to help the next generation connect to their service
Many high schools have an "hours requirement" for graduation, meaning students have to log a set number of hours volunteering in the community before they can receive a diploma, but that often leads to kids volunteering not because they want to, but because they have no other choice.
“I feel like a lot of the times they do join organizations just for the sake of hours,” said Sonali Ratnasinghe, a student volunteer. “And I understand that. You can really tell the difference between who's getting involved for passion and who's getting involved for hours.”
Kenton Gardinier is all for students volunteering in their communities, but as he watched his daughters meet the volunteering hours requirement in high school, he realized they weren't getting the same enjoyment out of serving others that he and his wife were.
“We're trying to help these students understand the impact not only that they're having on the community, but to themselves,” Gardinier said. “Volunteering, yes, serves other people, that's what we're called to do ... but at the same time these are great life skills, career skills that people are getting.”
His remedy for that was Givefinity, a free app for students and anyone who wants to track their volunteer hours. His hope is that this app presents their sacrifice in a tangible way that helps them realize the incredible effect they are having in their community and in the lives of others.
“People aren't understanding the impact that they are having,” Gardinier said. “I would say the vast majority of volunteers, it's a point in time thing. They can't look at what they've been doing in a longer term fashion, so when they do start to look at that it's been fantastic.”
The app's name comes from the idea of giving infinitely and the reward that you receive in return for that service.
“Personally I love seeing the ripple effect that comes with volunteering,” Ratnasinghe said. “I love seeing that I can serve my community in different ways, but then also they can do the same for others as well.”
She found a love of volunteering at an early age, which puts her in the perfect position to inspire her generation to greater service and move beyond an obligation. She met Gardinier through the use of his app, which she has found is much more efficient than looseleaf papers at keeping track of her thousands of hours.
“I feel like at this age it's really the sort of thing you get to learn, you get to find what you're interested in and how you want to give back for yourself,” Ratnasinghe said. “This is a group of students who are really just trying to make a difference and don't know how.”