Volunteering in high school helps teens learn how individuals positively impact the community

Nicole Luczak has an ulterior motive for encouraging high schoolers to earn the Michigan Governor’s Youth Service Award.

Luczak, President and CEO of the United Way of Bay County, has witnessed as the statewide honor helps kids earn scholarships and win admission to universities. She’s pleased that the award is recognized and helps the kids.

But she also believes that when students volunteer the hundreds of hours required to earn the awards, they grow into the adults who are ready to step up and help their communities solve problems.

This spring, the United Way of Bay County presented nine Bay County high school seniors with the Michigan Governor’s Youth Service Award. Three seniors each from Bay City Central, Bay City Western, and Bangor John Glenn high schools are receiving the award for volunteer services throughout high school.

Volunteers help make efforts such as the United Way of Bay County Annual Back to School clothing and supply drive a success. (Graphic courtesy of the United Way of Bay County)The Michigan Governor’s Youth Service Award is an umbrella award with varying levels of achievement awarded to each student depending on the number of volunteer service hours.

The United Way of Bay County works with the Michigan Community Service Commission to present the Youth Spirit of Hope Award and the Youth Changemaker Award to eligible high school seniors. Each award requires a certain number of service hours. The Youth Spirit of Hope Award requires 200 hours while the Youth Changemaker Award requires recipients to serve at least 400 by the end of their senior year.

Luczak is hopeful youth service volunteers will see the benefits of volunteering for themselves as well as for their community.

“Whatever work they’re doing in the community, there’s immediate benefits to it, but the long-term goal is being able to create that connection to our community, so hopefully they can have a positive experience and want to come back,” Luczak says.

Luczak mentions there are fewer award recipients this year than in the previous years, but remains undeterred as she has some ideas on how to get more students engaged and involved.

In the past, students would report their hours to an appointed school staff member, either a secretary, school counselor, or teacher. The staff member would then turn in the hours to the United Way of Bay County. From there, the hours would be verified and the awards would be distributed.

To streamline the data entry, everything went digital. Now, students log their hours into an online platform called InnerView.

“In 2019, they switched to InnerView, an online platform that is free to use,” Luczak says.

“As you go through high school, you log all of your volunteer activities, and it will automatically generate a volunteer’s service resume. They can use that when applying for scholarships or college applications.”

The switch to InnerView came just before the global COVID-19 pandemic, causing a slow roll out of the new platform and some slight confusion among high school students.

The United Way of Bay County hopes to end the confusion by visiting the high schools and helping set up students for success.

“My goal with the schools this year, is in the fall, we talk to all of the incoming freshmen and get them set up on InnerView,” Luczak says. “That way, they start from day one and by their senior year, if they have 200 or 400 hours, they automatically get the award.” 

Setting up and getting registered on InnerView is only the first step for incoming freshmen or any high school student. Once they are registered and ready to volunteer, the next challenge is finding where to do so.

Bailey Krause, a 2023 Bay City Central High School graduate who received the Youth Changemaker Award this year, found ample volunteer opportunities while in high school.

“For me personally, it was not difficult finding volunteer opportunities,” Krause says. “My school did a good job of announcing and making students aware of different opportunities by posting them on bulletin boards and speaking about them over the morning announcements.”

Luczak echoes Krause’s sentiment on the ease of finding volunteer opportunities.

“There’s something for everybody in our community,” she says. “Our little league fields are always looking for people to work concessions stands, there’s stuff you can do with the schools, there’s just so many different kinds and varieties of volunteer opportunities that I think it would be easy to accumulate the hours.” 

Students are encouraged to set up their accounts on InnerView their freshmen year and continuously log their volunteer service hours throughout high school.

Students see direct benefits in the form of scholarship opportunities and help with college applications. However, Luczak remains hopeful the program creates adults who engage in life-long community service.

Volunteering and becoming active in one’s community helps high school seniors attain their collegiate goals, while opening their eyes to the struggles the community faces.

“It helps them learn about resources and the things around them,” says Luczak. “Sometimes you can be in your bubble and have no idea there are hungry people around you.”

It seems to have worked for Krause. She already wants to continue her volunteer work even though longer after she is done with college applications and scholarships.

“I definitely plan on continuing to volunteer throughout college and into my adult life,” says Krause. “In the simplest of terms, it makes you feel good.”

The nine recipients for the Michigan Governor’s Youth Service Award are listed below:
  • Shea Lauwers from Bay City Central, Youth Changemaker Award, with 732.5 hours.
  • Isabella Laroche from Bangor John Glenn, Youth Changemaker Award, with 494 hours.
  • Sophia Steelmon, from Bay City Western, Youth Changemaker Award, with 477 hours.
  • Logan Wallace from Bay City Central, Youth Changemaker Award, with 430 hours.
  • Bailey Krause, from Bay City Central, Youth Changemaker Award, with 429 hours.
  • Bella Facundo from Bangor John Glenn, Youth Changemaker Award, with 425 hours
  • Kayla Jones from Bangor John Glenn, Youth Changemaker Award, with 414.25 hours.
  • Kathleen Hernden, from Bay City Western, Youth Changemaker Award, with 403.25 hours.
  • Joslyne Borema, from Bay City Western, Youth Spirit of Hope Award, with 394.7 hours.

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