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Latest Blog Post

The Servie Challenge

The popularity of the selfie is phenominal.  Selfies are the most well recognized trend among social media users, but they paint an incomplete picture of their subjects.

The Servie Challenge launched by VolunTEEN Nation Ambassador Kate Parchman is designed to allow social media users to show a more complete picture of themselves.  Servies are images of individuals/groups engaging in acts of service to others and posted on social media sites with the #serviechallenge.

Servies do the following:

1. Serives show a more complete picture of an individual, going beyond physical appearance to highlight interests, talents, character and dedication.

2. Servies share ideas for service opportunities. Many willing individuals wish to serve but do not know what groups or organizations are in need of assistance.  Also, first time volunteers may wish to share the experience with a friend, and servies can help volunteers to connect and coordinate efforts, leading to an increase in volunteer support for the organization and a more fulfilling experience for the volunteers.

3. Servies raise awareness, highlighting issues, needs and solutions to problems in our local communities and around the world.

4. Servies inspire others and impact communities:  Servies show needs being met, lives being improved and communities changing for the better.

5. The Servie Challenge is a great way to show, share and increase your impact on the world.   What you need to do for the Servie Challenge is post servies  to your profiles and then challenge other social media users to do the same.  Servies can change the world, but you have to take the first step. 

Post your servies with #serviechallenge.

Raise.Me to an Affordable Education

Today, college can seem like a money vacuum. With tuition rising, it seems impossible to go to college and come out debt free. The website www.Raise.Me is working to fight against graduates in debt by awarding college scholarship money to you every time you accomplish a small goal during high school, like getting an “A” in a class or doing one hour of community service.

With a growing list of participating colleges, www.Raise.Me has been rewarding hard-working students for everything from getting a “B” in a class to being involved in after-school activities. Students can earn hundreds of dollars for doing what they love. The best part? There is no competition. This isn’t a scholarship students must write an essay for or one where they’re competing for a set amount of money. This is a program that rewards 100% of students for every goal they accomplish. “Any high school student can sign up, and receive money each time they achieve a small goal in high school,” said Shagran Hassan, Vice President of Raise.Me. With over 20 goals that students can complete, students can get thousands of dollars for their education. This also doesn’t mean that the scholarships provided are for just the Valedictorians or Salutatorians. 

Absolutely anyone can get money. www.Raise.Me is also completely user friendly. Students just sign up and then fill in the blanks. After you fill in a few lines, colleges instantly award you scholarship money based on each of your achievements. This money must be used at the specific 

college that is giving the student money; with the growing list of participating colleges at www.Raise.Me it is likely there will be one that is best for you. “They [colleges] are really a mix. Some are large public colleges like Penn State and University of Central Florida, which are two of the five largest public colleges in the United States. Then there are also some really good private colleges like DePaul University, and liberal arts colleges like Oberlin College.” There are colleges from everywhere. 

With this easy to use site and several dozen college partners, students can feel better about going to college and getting a degree without worrying about how much debt awaits them. Every single goal, whether it is one “A” in a class or two hours of volunteer work gets students closers to a more affordable future. If you want to sign up or know more about www.Raise.Me, follow this link to their website. As a member myself, I can say it is definitely worth your time.

Lab Candy: Making Science Accessible to Young Girls

If I have one hope for the future, it is to see an equal representation of men and women in science industries across the world. I wish that in the near future, science industries will see women at the helm of innovations and breakthroughs alongside men, and be radically different from the male-dominated bastions that they are today. But I know that for this sea change to take place, girls’ interest in science must be cultivated from a young age, and deeply ingrained cultural stereotypes about men and women in science must be uprooted.

This past week, I was fortunate to interview Olivia Pavco-Giaccia, the Founder of LabCandy a social enterprise venture that hopes to foster girls’ early interest in science and dispel false notions that men are the mainstays of science industries. Olivia, a rising junior at Yale University, says that LabCandy aims to fulfill this mission by showing girls that “the field has room for girls like them.”

Olivia cites the “persistent stereotype that scientists are nerdy, old guys” as one reason why girls are often deterred from careers in science. “LabCandy attacks this stereotype directly, allowing girls to change what they think a scientist is supposed to look like.” To achieve this, LabCandy makes available to girls “brightly colored lab coats, fun goggles, and engaging science adventure story books,” encouraging girls to “picture herself as the scientist that she can grow up to be.”

In addition to colorful and accessible lab coats and goggles, LabCandy boasts a series of story books that feature riveting and true-to-life characters. Understanding that the presence of women role models in science is crucial to closing the gender gap in science industries, Olivia notes that these characters were created to be “relatable, spunky role models who will help young girls realize the world of science offers them opportunities for creating, collaborating and solving real-world problems.” She hopes that young girls will be able to feel a sense of connection with these characters, and hone investigative skills.

So far, the team at LabCandy has liaised with hundreds of girls, parents, grandparents, teachers and scientists in the US to “bring LabCandy to life” and have its enlightening mission to come to fruition. Reflecting on her conversations with the girls, Olivia revels in seeing and hearing “the excited reactions of young girls when they put on our colorful labcoats, decorate up a pair of their own lab goggles, read our storybook and then try out [Lab Candy’s] experiments.”

When asked how youth can get involved with LabCandy, Olivia encourages everyone to get in touch with LabCandy and contact LabCandy team members through its interactive website. In addition, she wishes to see people spreading the word about LabCandy on social media. A creative way to harness social media to make science accessible to girls is to create a personal photo edit on what you perceive a scientist looks like. “Hashtag it with #labcandy and share it on Twitter!” Olivia urges. 

Ultimately, LabCandy works to address the dearth of females in science industries. “In the short term, encouraging young girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics promotes self-confidence, creativity, and critical thinking skills. In the long term, it opens up new job opportunities,” Olivia emphasizes. Indeed, getting more women involved in science will narrow the wage gap, empower the next generation of problem-solvers and innovators, and safeguard a brighter future for all.

Growing a Garden and Giving Back

Today I donated 10 more pounds of cucumbers to my local food pantry from my backyard garden. I think the cucumbers are taking over my garden this year. I was lucky enough to be one of 31 grantees to receive funding from Katie's Krops, an incredible non-profit organization. Selected from over 170 applicants, I am now one of more than 75 inspirational youth nationwide growing vegetable gardens to end hunger. Through the local food pantry, my garden has provided more than 50 pounds of fresh cucumbers to the underserved this summer. In addition, when we were donating produce today, we also had the amazing experience of giving the food to the underserved in the community. 

When I was making my first donation to the pantry with my mom, they noticed that my mom was fluent in both English and Chinese, and I was half fluent in Chinese (and fluent in English). Every Friday when they give the food out at the pantry, they serve some people who speak only Chinese and no English. These individuals do not understand what the leader is saying, what the food is, or how much they can take; so they asked my mom and I if we could come to the pantries on Friday to translate. Without a doubt we took the opportunity.

This week, we went to the food panty and my mom translated everything to the fluent Chinese speakers. I helped at the baked goods station. It was a good thing my mom and I were at the right place at the right time because one Chinese couple thought an clear orange/brown cleaning solution was apple juice. Another Chinese lady had diabetes so she needed some food that did not have much sugar, so I helped her find a pie with no sugar, some bread with no sugar, and some other foods as well. 

Not only did we help translate for the Chinese speakers, we also helped many others. We helped people find healthy food options and showed them where everything was. I had a great time volunteering at the food pantry and I hope to go back as many times as I can to help. Thank you Katie’s Krops for helping me connect to my local food pantry!

Teens Taking Action

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead. This thought really struck home for two sophomores who had a passion for volunteering in their community. In the spring of 2013, Morgan and Rachael started a service club called Teens Taking Action at their high school in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The club is focused on counteracting poverty in the Twin Cities through volunteer work at local organizations. 

They wanted to give students an opportunity to volunteer more regularly in order to spread volunteerism in their community. Members of the service club choose to volunteer at organizations and causes they are passionate about. The service club as four main issues they take action against: hunger, homelessness, lack of necessities and aiding in healthy community relations, in order to counteract poverty. 

The club meets every month during the school year and strives to complete at least two volunteering projects each month. What began as a small group of 15 friends has grown to more than 50 members. The club even completes volunteer projects during the summer. Some examples of organizations they have volunteered with include Second Harvest Heartland, HandsOn Twin Cities, The Sandwich Project, ICA Food Shelf, Salvation Army, and Caring for Cambodia, Cheerful Givers, The Humane Society, Operation Gratitude and Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly. 

However, the club’s biggest accomplishment was receiving a grant from the organization Katie’s Krops to start their very own vegetable garden, where all the vegetables harvested would be donated to their local ICA food shelf. Over 170 applicants applied for Katie’s Krops 2014 Grant Cycle and Teens Taking Action was one of the 31 grantees to receive funding. Teens Taking Action also received donations of seeds and plants from a local greenhouse and their city also donated a 20 X 20 plot for them to grow on. They began planting in mid May and the garden has been flourishing since. Each week this summer the garden switches hands from various members. Two to three members will take care of the garden for a week. Responsibilities for managing the garden include weeding, watering, and if there is produce, delivering it to ICA Food Shelf. 

Morgan and Rachael, the founders of Teens Taking Action, are so thankful for the wonderful support from their members, as well as the support from their club advisor, community, and Katie’s Krops. 

Interested in learning more about Teens Taking Action’s service projects follow them on Twitter @TTA_MHS.