Helping students grow

By Shari Boyce

“Social innovation starts with you.”  That’s what I and a handful of other volunteers remind high school students participating in the LearnServe Fellows Program. Every Thursday during the academic year, I use the community service hours given to me by DAI Solutions to help high school students from across the Washington, DC, metro area design and launch their own social “ventures” – action projects that will benefit their schools and communities.

As fellows develop business plans for their own venture projects, which range from college scholarship funds for children of incarcerated parents to science and technology education for elementary school students, I can leverage the skills I have learned and developed in the workplace to help empower, guide, and support their efforts.

In early December, fellows get a chance to debut their social venture ideas in front of a large audience of professionals. They have a stage, a microphone, and 45 seconds to make their elevator pitch. This is often the first time many have ever spoken in public. It’s an overwhelmingly gratifying experience to see the young leaders I have mentored step out of their comfort zone and share their ideas about how they want to change the world through social innovation. It’s a wonderful way for all of us in the audience to start the season of giving and an inspiring reminder to the volunteers that giving back can often benefit us more than the people we are serving.