By Clare S. Richie
With the new school year under way, more learning will take place outside of the classroom thanks to GivingPoint. It’s the first online social marketplace designed for youth to teach and inspire community engagement.
“GivingPoint is built on the belief that high school age students are capable of making a significant impact in their communities. We give students the tools and opportunities to make a difference,” Executive Director Debra Carson explained.
The nonprofit utilizes an online platform (mygivingpoint.org) to match young people’s passions with vetted age appropriate volunteer opportunities. Students who create a free account can take quizzes to identify their interests, learn about the needs of their community, track verified hours, view and download their civic resume for school requirements and college applications, post projects to help raise awareness, volunteers and funds for causes, and more.
Derek Smith, former Chairman and CEO of ChoicePoint, started GivingPoint after the findings of research he commissioned showed that even though teens want to get involved, they lacked the education, training, resources, and encouragement to connect with others who share their interests. In July 2009, GivingPoint became a nonprofit and raised more than $200,000 from a diverse group of corporations, individuals and foundations.
Its partners now include Myfifident Foundation, New Kent Capital, Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, Zeist Foundation, Marcus Foundation, Arthur M. Blank Foundation and Wells Fargo to name a few.
Today, an average of 2,000 students per school year create accounts to track hours, create projects and/or raise awareness with approximately 300 active nonprofits.
“GivingPoint meets students where they are in a tech world,” Carson said.
This is good news for high school students in Atlanta Public Schools (APS) who must complete 75 hours of community service before they graduate. APS has entered into a partnership with GivingPoint and is encouraging all its high schools to use this free online service to facilitate access to community service and hours tracking.
“It’s been an amazing way to organize service learning at Maynard Jackson High School over the past four years,” Principal Stephanie Johnson said. They already have 100 percent student participation. Plus, GivingPoint has connected her students to meaningful service, such as making and delivering sandwiches to downtown homeless shelters and tutoring middle school students within their cluster.
For a smaller cohort of a 20-25 high school students, the nonprofit offers a 10-month combination leadership and engagement program, the GivingPoint Institute. High school students with at least 100 hours of community service plus other requirements apply in the spring for participation the following school year. Once accepted, students participate in monthly workshops sponsored by corporate and community partners covering strategic planning, budgeting, marketing, etc. to learn how to a launch community project, an awareness campaign, and/or their own nonprofit.
“Giving Point Institute is the most important experience of high school for me so far,” Lovett senior Claire Biggerstaff said. “They believe in what young adults can do and support your big dreams.”
Biggerstaff started Kids 4 CURE to benefit CURE Childhood Cancer as her project. It’s a yearlong program for grades 3rd through 6th to bridge the gap between elementary and middle school students through service projects for CURE. Sixth graders will lead efforts – like making craft and snack bags for patients undergoing cancer treatment at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta. Biggerstaff hopes to create a model that other schools can easily replicate.
The institute ends with students sharing their projects at the SPARKS celebration event.
“It’s like Shark Tank,” Carson said, because students can still raise funds for their projects and a few receive scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.
Last spring, Max Rubenstein, now a Galloway School junior, was awarded a $3,000 scholarship for Game Givers. Rubenstein launched his own nonprofit to bring video games and consoles to hospital bound children in the Atlanta area. As an institute alumnus, he is eager to add hospital partners across the country.
“We’re the human touch connecting them to the learning, nonprofits, and technology to help them turn their passion into action.” Carson said. “We can give them what they need to change the world.”