As a teen who wanted to spend her summers and free time volunteering for local organizations, Simone Bernstein found the most difficult part was locating volunteer opportunities for teens her age. From the age of 12 she spent time volunteering at her local library and The Magic House, and as she got older, the St. Louis Crisis Nursery and local hospitals. But she had to devote a significant amount of her time to approaching local organizations to ask them what volunteer opportunities were available. She decided that as her next project, she’d make finding volunteer opportunities easier for her and others her age.
“I was surprised at how few resources were available to search for local youth volunteer opportunities,” said Bernstein, a student at Clayton High School. “There are national Web sites that are geared toward ages 18 and older, but I could not find a local Web site for youth.”
So Bernstein launched www.stlouisvolunteen.com last year. The site lists volunteer opportunities for teens and tweens (and even some for adults) at more than 40 local organizations.
The site has gotten media attention and a loyal following thanks to Bernstein, who in addition to regular volunteer work and school spends her time maintaining and promoting the site. On April 11, Bernstein has teamed up with The Magic House to host the first-ever St. Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair, a free event where families can find out about volunteer opportunities across the metro area.
“The goal of the fair is to find ways that you and your family can get involved in community service to make St. Louis a stronger community,” Bernstein said. “Volunteering gave me the opportunity to step away from my neighborhood and observe some of the challenges that our community faces. I value my experiences.”
Many organizations that teens are involved in, such as the National Honor Society, required service hours. In addition, some area high schools integrate community service hours into graduation requirements. A quick look at the opportunities listed at www.stlouisvolunteen.com shows volunteer positions in the areas of sports, nature and animals, healthcare, museums and more.
As a busy college-bound teen, how does Bernstein find the time to maintain the Web site? “While I am studying I will take a break to tweet or answer e-mails. I also try to spend a few hours updating the site on weekends,” she said. When she heads to college in the fall she plans to continue updating and maintaining the Web site.
“All I need is a laptop and a cell phone,” she said. That, and time – and Bernstein seems to be able to manage her time very well. Despite launching St. Louis Volunteen, she hasn’t given up regular volunteer work. “It’s important for me to be an active volunteer. I’m promoting youth volunteerism.”
The St. Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair will be held Sunday, April 11th from 1 to 4 p.m. at The Magic House in Kirkwood. Admission is a can of food that will be donated to a local food pantry. For more information, see www.stlouisvolunteen.com.