Serving the public has become 15-year-old Nina Mangiola’s passion. The socially conscious Wellington teenager believes in giving back to the community and has volunteered her time with various organizations, including thinkPINKkids and Habitat for Humanity.
A Suncoast High School sophomore, Mangiola has a passion for giving back that has prompted her to begin the Volunteen Project, a volunteer club for teenagers in the western communities. The club aims to assist students looking for a place to donate their time while fostering social engagement and making volunteering fun.
Originally, Mangiola wanted to start the club at her school, but she decided she wanted to make it accessible to all students in the community.
“I realized that my school had so many clubs that had a similar idea,” she said, “and I couldn’t really localize it if I did it through my school.”
Last summer, Mangiola began by creating a book with a list of places where students could volunteer. “I got a book and dividers and looked up places to volunteer, like animal shelters,” she said. “I printed out the web home pages, and highlighted the numbers and contact information.”
The book was just the beginning, but it helped Mangiola get the club noticed. With assistance from some of her friends, neighbors and classmates, she officially formed the Volunteen Project. She started a Tumblr page where students stay connected with posts on new volunteer opportunities and club events. “Soon, I will be getting on Facebook and Twitter where others can add people on,” Mangiola said. “And it’s an easier way to contact and keep people informed.”
The Volunteen Project is more than just a place to access volunteer opportunities in the community; it’s about meeting like-minded people who enjoy volunteering and forming friendships. “It’s more like a social club where we can all get together and volunteer together,” she said. “I think it would be more fun if we did it that way.”
Mangiola believes that by volunteering as a group, it would be easier for people who think volunteering is boring. Students are able to share their experiences with others through her project, and Mangiola hopes that it will broaden the base of youth volunteers.
Through the Volunteen Project, students are able to volunteer with an organization or business that they can enjoy, or which fits what they like doing or want to learn more about.
“I’ve realized that many teenagers don’t like volunteering because they don’t like some of the places they have to volunteer with,” Mangiola said. “So I’m able to find out what they really like doing and match it to a place that needs those skills, and it makes everyone happier.”
Whether the student likes working with animals or in an office, the Volunteen Project will find out what each student likes best.
Mangiola is looking to work with local schools and organizations, to be a point of reference for volunteer opportunities. “Many of these organizations require a lot of volunteer hours, and I want them to know about what I do so that they can get their students to join,” she said.
Mangiola hopes that the club will expand, even after she goes off to college. “I want to leave the club to a person who I see is really involved and attends all the meetings,” she said. “Hopefully, it will continue to grow and encourage other kids to give back to the community.”
Mangiola encourages her peers to try to volunteer their time. “Most teenagers say they don’t have the time,” she said. “But the feeling of self-satisfaction after you volunteer is great, and I think everybody should do it more.”
As volunteers, students can learn a lot about life, Mangiola said. “It’s definitely a learning experience,” she said. “An example is if you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you really get to know about homeless people a little bit more, and you actually get a personal one-on-one experience, and realize that, ‘Wow! Anyone can be homeless.’”
These are some of the experiences that students can learn from for the rest of their lives. “It teaches you about the world,” Mangiola said. “And you’re more conscious about what is really going on in the world around you, and it’s good to go outside your comfort zone.”
For more information, e-mail Nina Mangiola at firstname.lastname@example.org.