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Advice

High School Brothers Launch Online Volunteer Portal for Santa Barbara-Area Students

Santa Barbara High Schools Give Back would help connect students with nonprofit organizations for community service

San Marcos High School brothers Ryan, left, and Nate Fay created an online portal where high schoolers can better connect with local nonprofits to earn community service hours required for graduation.
San Marcos High School brothers Ryan, left, and Nate Fay created an online portal where high schoolers can better connect with local nonprofits to earn community service hours required for graduation.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Connecting high school students to fulfilling volunteer opportunities could get a lot easier in Santa Barbara because of two enterprising teenage brothers.

San Marcos High School junior Ryan Fay was trying to add another extracurricular activity onto his plate when he realized just how archaic the process of searching for a nonprofit organization could be.

Students at one of five Santa Barbara Unified School District high schools are required to log 60 to 200 hours of community service in order to graduate.

A student typically picks a nonprofit from a four-page paper list of 250 organizations, cold calling phone numbers.

“When I look at this, my eyes glaze over,” the 16-year-old told the district’s Board of Education during a meeting last week.

Ryan and his brother Nate, a 14-year-old San Marcos sophomore, presented their solution as the Santa Barbara High Schools Give Back, an online portal that will allow tech-savvy teens to search for nonprofit volunteer opportunities on one website.

The brothers already did the leg work — typing up profiles of each organization with their parents, Matt and Sheri, and older sister Rachel over last winter break, including a website, email address and phone number.

Nonprofits could post when volunteers are needed, students can search by category (health, animals, etc.) instead of settling for less meaningful opportunities and the school district wouldn’t have to do any of the work.

Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent Dave Cash and the Board of Education loved the idea, giving unanimous approval to move forward with a pilot at San Marcos High School this year. 

If all goes well, the Give Back portal could be used district-wide as soon as fall 2016.

“I think you just made 10,000 students really happy,” school board member Kate Parker said.

Board members were excited about the possibilities but curious how the tool would be evaluated and how students would get hours approved. The Fays are still working those details out.

The portal — a sort of Fay family service project — would be operated by Volunteer Match, a San Francisco company that’s been hosting the same information for two decades.

Volunteer Match charges an annual fee of $5,000, a cost that’s expected to be defrayed by donations from nonprofits and local families in the first year, possibly with individual school contributions in the future.

“We are very excited about the launch of SB Schools Give Back,” San Marcos Principal Ed Behrens said.

“This is a much-improved platform created by students for students to access their community service opportunities online. I like to give a great deal of credit to Ryan and Nate Fay for coming up with this brilliant concept. One of the most exciting features I saw is the ability for students to get live text updates when their favorite community service opportunity provider updates the opportunities.”

The Fay brothers, who both want to be entrepreneurs and play basketball and beach and indoor volleyball together, agreed the portal would be a lot easier for a generation that prefers texting to calling.

“It is a bit easier emailing,” Ryan said, especially when you’re involved in sports and don’t get home to call until late.

The next phase involves handing nonprofit profiles over to Volunteer Match, which will hopefully have the portal up and running by early next year.

The Fays are confident in the Give Back product and hope to keep it running long after they’ve graduated, possibly by starting a club or joint high school committee.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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