Many of us desire to give back. But where do we start? Our backgrounds, ages, and professions create a vibrant city but those same diverse demographics can also stand in the way of making meaningful connections with one another to foster change. That’s where GivingPoint comes in. For over 4 years, their intensive GivingPoint Institute program has worked to help local high school students connect with Atlantans to better serve their communities. And it’s working – GP’s contribution to volunteer and service has had an impact of over $18 million smackers. Although Program Director James Aucoin has had tremendous successes (more on that momentarily), he can’t do it alone – he needs you to pitch in.
Let’s get some background. What exactly is GivingPoint?
GivingPoint is an Atlanta-based nonprofit enabling high school students to make a difference in their communities. We help students tap into their passions through volunteerism and connect them with service opportunities that will grow their understanding of the world. While helping them to track their hours and build a volunteer resume through our website, we also provide accountability so their efforts can be used for high school credits or college applications.
For teens who really want to become a resource for others by creating service projects, we have our GivingPoint Institute. This 10-month program trains 20 – 30 high school students annually in social entrepreneurship and gives them the skills they will need to create their own advocacy campaigns, volunteer programs, social enterprises or nonprofits. We have even had a few graduates of the program create their own nonprofits that are impacting Atlanta today.
Great! Tell us about this mentorship opportunity.
The mentorship component of The GivingPoint Institute is only a year old but we have made some amazing connections. The basis of this program is our core belief in relationship building through service. We are looking for folks who are willing to answer an email or a phone call from a kid and help steer their volunteer intentions in the right direction. This is an opportunity for people who are interested in seeing a student’s passion grow through service. Atlanta has an amazing assortment of experts and professionals who can answer questions that our staff just can’t. We are looking for people who are passionate about their own areas of interest and are willing to be a resource for some really bright students. One of the great things about this opportunity is that it’s virtual. All we need is for folks to provide their contact information and be open to students reaching out with great questions about how to impact our city.
Have you had any success yet?
This past year we had a student, Sandya, whose initial idea for participation in the GivingPoint Institute was to create a series of short-term medical clinics in underserved parts of rural Georgia. In order to improve the health of those rural communities, Sandya wanted to recruit doctors to volunteer their time at those clinics. When she gauged their interest, many doctors said they were happy to help but were reluctant to volunteer because of liability issues. Sandya realized that she was up against a lot more than just rural medical issues. She now had to do something about the Charitable Liability Law here in Georgia. Although this the law in Georgia shields many volunteers from liability, it does not do the same for medical professionals. So Sandya was at an impasse. I then reached out to the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation who identified two tremendous lawyers who stepped in as mentors. Brian Mathis and Trevor Newberry of the law firm Huff, Powell and Bailey, took Sandya under their wing, taught her about the law and helped her identify the state legislative sponsors who created the original legislation. In pursuit of helping rural communities get the support they need, she is now learning what she needs to draft a bill to make it easier for doctors to volunteer their services. Without her mentors, she would have had a much tougher time and could have given up. This experience was really satisfying for Brian and Trevor too because it, “gave us the opportunity to help make the change that they went to law school for in the first place, an opportunity few attorneys actually see in their lifetime.” Through their mentorship, these attorneys were not only able to guide Sandya through the legislative labyrinth to potentially impact Georgia law, but also showed her that making change is hard but doesn’t have to be done alone.
That’s fantastic! How can other people mentor these students?
We have so many opportunities to help teens like Sandya and we need relationships that can help take these student’s ideas to the next level. It is important to note that we don’t need mentors to be lawyers or crazy well-connected; we need people who have everything from the smallest passion to the largest ability. For more information or to apply to be a mentor, head over to our GivingPoint Institute page. We would love to have you!
Photos are property of GivingPoint.