What to do? …. A Treasure Trove of Ideas for high school students

By Lee Shulman Bierer

The playing field has been leveled and indeed all freshmen, sophomores and juniors are in the same boat. What can you do to help when you need to abide by social distancing? How can you make a contribution in this time of need? Can you have an impact locally?

Amy Morgenstern, an independent college counselor in the San Francisco area, has put together a phenomenal list of ideas for students. I suggest every student review the list carefully and pick 2-3 of the items and then pursue them vigorously. You may very likely NOT be able to do all of these within your own communities.

Everyone should be doing something to contribute, if they can. I imagine many colleges will be looking at how individual students have responded to this crisis. If all you can say is that you played video games for 2.5 months, I think we can all agree that that would make you a less desirable candidate than someone who committed themselves to getting involved. Of course, if you are compromised or your family doesn’t feel it’s safe, then find something else to do.

Here’s Amy’s list:

Volunteer ideas while maintaining social distance.   

  1. Assisting the elderly with buying groceries. Students could organize this through neighborhood associations, churches/mosques, synagogues, other service associations, such as The Lions Club or Interact Clubs or Honor Societies at their school, and/or social media, using sites such as NextDoor, or help expand Invisible Hands to your area. CNN has already reported on one teen who has organized this kind of effort and volunteers are starting to offer to perform these services on Craigslist
  2. Providing social connection with the elderly who are sheltering in place. One existing organization is making remote Social Calls” to the elderly. Contact your house of worship to see if they have any program in place to reach their senior members. Just reaching out to give them a call can truly make their day. 
  3. There is also a current desperate need for masks for healthcare workers. #MillionMaskMayday even tells you how you can make them yourself so you can donate them.  This political PAC is currently accepting donations to order masks and donate them to hospitals in NYC.
  4. Doing remote volunteer tutoring for younger children whose school has also been canceled — again, students could use Nextdoor, social media, community organizations, and even their own teachers to find elementary school teaching colleagues who might spread the word and contact parents who might find it useful to have a teen help children with homework, teach lessons or activities, or just read-aloud remotely through an organization like Quarantutors.
    Again, listings for this service are already appearing on Craigslist. Many companies, such as Khan Academy offer valuable resources. Other websites list multiple links to educational resource companies offering free access and other educational resources during this crisis.
  1. Even students on lockdown can organize virtual fundraisers (virtual concerts or other performances? poetry slams? offer online ballet, karate or taekwondo classes?) or teach online classes/tutor for younger children to help parents and donate the proceeds, organizing friends to help who are also stuck at home.
  2. Remote political volunteering. While the coronavirus crisis is ongoing, our 2020 Election political process continues. Students can volunteer to increase voter turnout through organizations such as Rock the Vote, which offers opportunities that can be done remotely, which offers remote volunteer internships, and Postcards to Voters, which can be written at home. 
  3. Students with programming skills can do home-based coding for nonprofits that need help through organizations such as Code for Social Good, Benetech, or DonateCode. These students could also help develop apps or websites for some of the efforts listed above: helping coordinate neighborhood food service to the elderly, and/or families looking for remote tutors. Or help the people who are helping the rest of us through a Facebook group like Australia’s Adopt a Healthcare Worker and #ViralKindness , which started in England.
  4. Brush up on foreign language skills through Slow News in French or News in Slow Spanish — students already know current events; these sites give them familiar content spoken more slowly in the languages they’re studying in school so non-native speakers can follow along.
  5. Do “remote science” through the projects listed here: Citizen Science projects. This website has a searchable database of projects, some, like this one, looking for images of sea lions in photographs. There are even “crowdsourced history” projects 
  6. Take an online course or learn to code online through IXL, Udemy, Coursera, EdX, Harvard online courses in Social Sciences, Stanford online courses, and Great Courses of the World. Or access the free resources of OpenCulture for ebooks and audiobooks or all of the TEDTalks. The Facebook group Amazing Educational Resources has assembled a pretty comprehensive listing of resources that companies are now allowing everyone to use for free during this crisis.
  7. Or do test prep for AP tests at Fiveable or use Crack ACT practice tests and free practice tests on the SAT CollegeBoard website
  8. Tour an online museum: http://www.virtualfreesites.com/museums.exhibits.htmlhttps://people.com/travel/stuck-at-home-you-can-visit-these-world-famous-sites-from-your-couch-for-free/, https://preview.houstonchronicle.com/art-exhibits/virtual-museum-tours-take-viewers-around-the-world-15137598, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/75809/12-world-class-museums-you-can-visit-onlinehttps://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours, https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour, and https://lifehacker.com/you-can-virtually-tour-these-500-museums-and-galleries
  9. American Red Cross needs blood donations redcross.org/giveblood.html

Lee Shulman Bierer, College Admissions Strategies, www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com ; lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com, 704-907-5685

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