Helena Zimmerman, 16, of Purchase, N.Y., a junior at Rye Country Day School, co-founded a nonprofit organization three years ago that is currently giving more than 3,000 teens in 40 states the opportunity to experience meaningful volunteer work by teaching and tutoring kids in underserved communities. “As a child, I was fortunate to have engaged in terrific volunteer experiences with my parents,” said Helena. But she later learned that many students are not as lucky. “My peers are often relieved at having filled their ‘dreaded’ service requirements,” she said. So she surveyed classmates and found that the problem wasn’t that they didn’t want to help; they just needed help finding rewarding volunteer opportunities. That was when she and a friend decided to start “TeensGive.org.”
Their idea was to create a menu of options that allow prospective volunteers to provide academic enrichment to kids in after-school programs in underserved communities across the country. The pair drafted a business plan, built a website at TeensGive.org, and created marketing materials. They then reached out to nonprofits and after-school programs in low-income communities to form partnerships. To finance their endeavor, they won prize money in two competitions for new nonprofits and applied for grants. The teen volunteers in Helena’s program provide free tutoring and enrichment to struggling students, both in person and online. Helena also created and teaches an entrepreneurial baking curriculum, Counting Cupcakes, that enables young people to learn about business math, marketing, graphic design and social responsibility.