All last school year, Isabelle Harris, 17, was an honors student and a competitive dancer in Heber City, Utah. She knows how busy high schoolers can be.
She worked hard to improve her dancing and her grades. But focusing on herself could often feel self-centered. Service is the opposite of that.
“It’s so refreshing to turn outside of yourself and really look to see the needs in your community and be able to affect people in a positive way,” she said.
Isabelle formed a JustServe club at Wasatch High School that ended up with a total of 225 students participating. JustServe.org is a website and app where organizations list their volunteer needs and where people can find service opportunities around them.
“I found it so easy to use the JustServe website and the JustServe app, and I wanted to bring that opportunity to other students at my high school,” Isabelle said. “JustServe just makes it so easy to find something that fits into your schedule, fits your talents, and I just really wanted my peers to be able to have that opportunity also.”
Many middle, junior and high schools in the United States allow students to form clubs according to their interests — and many students are forming JustServe clubs at their schools.
To help other teenagers, Isabelle created a series of videos on the Wasatch JustServe Club YouTube channel where she outlined some steps and tips.
Step 1: Getting started
Isabelle emailed the school club coordinator about her wish to create a JustServe club. If schools do not have a designated club coordinator, any member of the administration or a teacher should be able to help.
Many schools require a faculty adviser to help the club, and Isabelle reached out to different teachers and found one that was willing to help her.
She also suggested that teenagers talk to their stake or area JustServe specialist for help with these steps.
Then, spread the word and advertise the club. Many schools have a day at the beginning of the school year where different clubs all have a booth or table and a sign-up sheet.
“We have an event at my high school called Club Rush where each club can promote their own club, and students can sign up for the ones they’re interested in,” Isabelle said.
Step 2: Establish a club presidency
Establishing a presidency helped things run much smoother for Isabelle’s club. She sent out a link for students to apply for a position, including vice president, secretary and a representative for each grade in the high school.
Having that many positions was helpful for how big her high school is, but others can choose how many officers to include.
Isabelle sent a Google survey for signups and the voting, which she found to be simple and easy.
Picking officers can be done each year, or the current vice president can become the president the next year.
Steps 3 and 4: Communication and projects
This is where most of the work will be done all school year. The club can meet as often as members wish and either vote on service project options or the presidency can choose.
Isabelle said JustServe makes it easy to find service projects in a geographical area by entering a ZIP code. Remote opportunities are also available. Each project includes the organization’s contact information and details of what needs to be done.
When she was president, she would send a Google form to each club member to sign up for an upcoming project — that way she knew how many would be attending.
Using options like the Remind app, an email list, social media, school newsletters or the school website can let other students know of upcoming events and projects.
And involving other school clubs, teams and student government is a great way to help service projects grow.
“You can feel that energy. When all of us are together, serving everyone is so joyful. Everyone just loves it. And it’s an incredible experience every time,” Isabelle said.
Building connection, gaining confidence through JustServe
Last year, the Wasatch JustServe Club worked with other organizations and hosted a formal dance for a local senior living center. Isabelle said the teenagers danced with the elderly residents, talked to them and got to know them. “That was an incredible experience.”
Another project involved cutting and tying fleece blankets for children in foster care. Many students attended that event.
“The impact has been incredible. Being able to see the connection between students that don’t normally know each other just come together and be able to help the community, local families that really need it — it’s just been incredible to see that.”
Isabelle said teenagers gain confidence through serving others as well.
“Everyone’s trying to build up their self-esteem, and I find that service really helps build their confidence. I don’t want it to seem intimidating at all. It’s been super easy and super fun, so enjoyable, and I really want others to be able to have those experiences also.”