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High schoolers form JustServe clubs and reap the blessings of service

‘Seeing how many people joined just showed me how much people really want to help others,’ says one teen

The Marina High School JustServe Club gathers for a meeting and official photo at their high school in Huntington Beach, California, on Jan. 9, 2023. Provided by Sydnie and Scotty Smith
Provided by Scotty Smith
Sydnie and Scotty Smith
Provided by Sydnie and Scotty Smith
Provided by Scotty Smith
Provided by Sydnie and Scotty Smith
Provided by Sydnie and Scotty Smith
Provided by Sydnie Smith
Provided by Sydnie and Scotty Smith
Provided by Scotty Smith
Alan Gibby
Alan Gibby

After learning more about service in their ward one Sunday in August 2022, Dallas Jones and Tiernan Nash received individual promptings they should do something to promote service at their high school in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

The 17-year-old high school seniors felt JustServe.org could be beneficial for others at Air Academy High School. 

“A lot of people at school need service hours, and I knew this platform was out there, so I talked to Dallas and said we should start this club,” Tiernan said. 

Sixteen-year-old twins Sydnie and Scotty Smith learned about JustServe from the JustServe specialist in their stake and decided to start a new club at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California.

“I was skeptical as to how many people we were going to get, but seeing how many people joined just showed me how much people really want to help others,” Scotty said.

JustServe.org is a website and app where people can find service projects and volunteer opportunities around them. Now, with official JustServe clubs in their schools, the high school students have ways to meet together, plan and carry out service in their communities. 

Other high schools in California have JustServe clubs. A high school in Tennessee received recognition for its JustServe efforts. And the Church News podcast included a young man who introduced JustServe to his high school in Utah.

Unlike inward-facing groups, the JustServe clubs give students opportunities to look outward and learn the importance — and blessings — of serving others. 

Marina High School JustServe Club members make bandanas for dogs at the Orange County Animal Shelter as part of a service project in Huntington Beach, California, on Oct. 15, 2022. | Sydnie and Scotty Smith

How a high school JustServe club works

The students followed the requirements set by their schools for new clubs. Scotty and Sydnie talked to their high school counselor, who gave them the proper paperwork to fill out. Sydnie’s Spanish teacher was willing to sponsor the club and hold the meetings in her classroom. The sophomore twins serve as co-presidents of their club.

“To stay being a club for our school, we have to fill out meeting minutes and show the school what we talked about in the meeting and how long it was,” Sydnie said. “It just depends on the school and what their regulations are.”

In Colorado Springs, Dallas said he asked several teachers over two days until he found one to sponsor the club at his school. He advised other teens thinking of starting their own JustServe clubs to keep asking and keep trying. 

“I’d say, just be prepared to be turned down. But keep going at it, don’t give up,” he said. He is the president of his school’s JustServe Club, while Tiernan is the vice president.

Tiernan said early in the month, the club members meet to pick and plan that month’s service project. While they have a monthly group service project, they also encourage club members to do more service projects on their own.

“I think a lot of the time people think it will be really time consuming, but it really isn’t. The JustServe app makes it super easy to set up these opportunities,” he said. “It just involves making that effort, and I feel like as we speak to people about it, people will have more interest than you might initially think.”  

Scotty Smith, left, shares information about the JustServe Club at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California, on Sept. 20, 2022. | Provided by Scotty Smith

JustServe club activities

Attendance at the Air Academy High School JustServe Club has been going up as the club does more projects. Tiernan said besides him and Dallas, there are two other members of the Church in their club and up to 20 teens who are not Latter-day Saints. Because Tiernan and Dallas are graduating this year, they have set up new officers to take over next year.

The Smiths invited their whole seminary class to join the club and they spread the word among their friends. Around 40 students signed up for the club, most of them not belonging to the Church. Sydnie said depending on school and sports schedules, sometimes only five teens can come to an activity, sometimes 15 to 20 come. 

“No matter how many come, we still want to give them the opportunity to serve. So we host the projects no matter how many people can come,” she said. 

The Colorado high school club has helped out at a community garden, made fleece blankets for refugees and helped hospice patients. The California club picked up litter on the beach, sewed bandanas for dogs in animal shelters, crafted Christmas ornaments for survivors of natural disasters and wrote cards for hospitalized children. All of the projects were listed on JustServe.org

“For the ornaments and cards, it was really cool because both of those organizations reached out to us later and said, ‘We love these, thank you so much for sending them.’ It was just really cool that they were able to reach back to us,” Sydnie said. 

Dallas said the service projects have gone well. “They’ve varied in attendance, but for the most part I think people have enjoyed them and have really liked to do them. People seem to want to be active in the club as well,” he said.

Members of the Marina High School JustServe Club including Sydnie Smith, lower right, make Christmas ornaments for a service project in Huntington Beach, California, on Dec. 17, 2022. | Provided by Sydnie Smith

The blessings of service

The teens feel grateful they are able to do different things to serve others in the community. At the same time, they see blessings in their own lives — when they serve, they feel happier and are uplifted. And they are making and strengthening friendships.

In fact, research shows teenagers who engage in service projects gain protective factors against depression and anxiety.

“It’s an awesome feeling to go out and help people, and it fuels me,” Dallas said. “It helps me go through whatever I’m going through at that time as well, and to be able to do that with people who I love and enjoy spending time with is the best of both worlds.” 

Tiernan is in a military family and has moved a lot. Serving others and doing things like creating the JustServe club brought him new friends who stand up for his beliefs and support his values. 

“It’s just always been an awesome opportunity to serve. I get my energy from helping other people, so just being able to do that with other people that I love spending time with is just awesome,” he said.

Tiernan said serving others is a way to fulfill the Savior’s commandment to love God and love one’s neighbors. “It’s just an awesome thing to do,” he said. “As you love other people more it just gets easier and you just want to show love to everyone.” 

Sydnie says using JustServe and doing service are contagious. The more service projects the teenagers take part in, the more they see others wanting to get involved as well.

“It shows you how many people in the community really want to serve others and show their love because it brings everyone together,” she said. “Service can help you with different things you’re going through, give you joy in your life, and it can help people you’re serving just show and feel that love as well.” 

Related Story
Episode 78: How youth and young adults are changing lives using JustServe
‘Service changed my life’: The protective factor of service in combating feelings of depression and anxiety
‘It just always brings me joy’: How youth and young adults are using JustServe, from high school clubs to service projects
Hundreds of JustServe volunteers pack thousands of meals in California for people in need
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