Northville students who are looking for a way to reach out and lend a hand to others in the community, but are unsure how to go about it, will have a powerful tool courtesy of a group of motivated teens.
Students Miranda Niemiec, Molly O’Sullivan, Lauren Santucci, and Jessica Bernard have created a new volunteerism-oriented website. After several months of work, they're ready to introduce Community Impact Awards for Students, or CIA for Students, which matches philanthropically-minded high school students with some very worth causes.
The project, which rewards high school students for volunteer projects while potentially increasing the number of volunteer hours in the community, began as part of a Girl Scouts Gold Award effort, but according to Niemiec, the project quickly exceeded the expectations of the students.
“It’s so much more than a Gold Award project,” said Niemiec, a junior at that recently presented the project to the Northville School Board. “The way its set up, if we have 10 percent of the student body take part in this program, which is about 200 students, that will mean 10,000 volunteer hours that didn’t exist before.”
Logging volunteer hours
The concept behind CIA for Students is simple: Students can browse a list of volunteer projects to find an activity. Once a student completes a volunteer project, they can then log the hours into the CIA system.
A minimum of 50 verifiable volunteer hours is required for an award, and once that threshold is reached, one of four themed awards are given to the student, which can then be added to a college application.
The awards include Leadership and Mentoring, which involves working with youth in the community; Beyond our Borders, which focuses on projects outside of Northville; the Northville Hometown Hero, which is for efforts involving local community groups; and the Good Nature award, which focuses on environmentalism and preserving the Earth.
"CIA for Students is open to all high school students who reside in the Northville school district boundaries," according to the website.
Santucci, a junior who attends Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, said that the breakdown of awards gives students several options to volunteer.
“If someone doesn’t have Scouts or is not a part of a group that volunteers, they can look at the site,” she said. “Not everyone can easily find projects to work on, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to help others.”
Several projects qualify for volunteer projects, Niemiec said. Local groups such as the , which operates a food bank and other programs for needy Northville residents, is one example. But other projects can include helping out a national charity, or even helping out local residents with snow removal.
Niemiec said that CIA does require multiple projects within the required hours for an award.
CIA was initially conceived as a way to recognize student philanthropy in college applications, which do not offer space to list volunteer projects, but often offer space for awards.
Barmack Nassirian, the associate executive director of external relations for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said volunteerism is viewed positively among those who make admissions decisions, especially at top colleges that often accept as little as 6 percent of applicants.
“It’s not a matter of identifying the applicants that are capable of doing the work as it was several years ago,” he said. “Today, most applicants are highly-qualified, and universities are looking for people who can provide proof of engagement in their communities.”
But for the community, CIA is likely to provide much-needed relief during difficult times, Niemiec said.
“It’s really about the volunteering and being able to expand the number of people helping others,” she said. “If just 10 percent of the students at Northville High volunteer, that would be great. But I think that more than 10 percent of the students at the high schools will volunteer."
Robert Watson, the principal of Northville High School, said he also believes CIA will be good for the community.
“Students can learn a lot about themselves through volunteering,” he said. “It’s something we want to encourage.”
Niemiec said she hopes the project will expand to other communities.
“Our hope is that once we go to college, other Girl Scouts will keep it going,” she said.