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Student-made website informs about youth volunteer options

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Early morning Aug 5, while the majority of her peers slumbered, CHS senior Simone Bernstein prepared to share her summer project with Randi Naughton of FOX 2 news.
After contacting numerous organizations to gain media coverage for her newly created website, www.stlouisvolunteen.com, her search was rewarded with a three-minute live interview on FOX 2 News.
“I walked into the studio at 7:48 am and was literally on live television at 7:50 am,” Bernstein said. “I had no clue what questions they were going to throw at me about the site. Since I had absolutely zero preparation, I was nervous before, during and after the interview.”
Bernstein’s interview was helpful in promoting the site, a welcome reward after her extensive search for publicity.
“My fingers typed over 300 e-mails to local media websites, from TV news stations, to the Post-Dispatch and everything in between,” Bernstein said. “I also sent e-mails to area high school and middle school principals, guidance counselors, as well as church and local area synagogue youth groups.”
St. Louis Volunteen informs youth up to age 18 about volunteer opportunities in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The site provides links, descriptions, age ranges, and contact information for various organizations such as the St. Louis Science Center and Humane Society.
Creating a website from scratch is a daunting task, even for the technology-savvy. For Bernstein, the creation of stlouisvolunteen.com required heavy reliance on on-line technical support.
“I now consider these folks my new good friends,” Bernstein said. “I am definitely learning as I go.”
But the learning process was not without the occasional mishap.

Senior Simone Bernstein has created the website www.stlouisvolunteen.com to make volunteer opportunities more accessible for teens.

“On day two, I wiped out the entire site when I tried to add background color,” Bernstein said. “It is amazing how the color white has really grown on me.”
Using her own funds, Bernstein purchased the domain name and a year of web hosting. She welcomes aid in the creation and keeping of the site.
“I am hoping some kind soul steps up and volunteers their technical skills and website design expertise,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein’s motivation for constructing the website stem from her own experiences with volunteering.
“I created www.stlouisvolunteen.com out of sheer frustration in my own search for volunteer opportunities for St Louis area youth,” Bernstein said. “It was difficult to find a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities for students under age 18.”
Because many volunteer positions are restricted to adults, Bernstein’s website focuses on a specific age group. Many St. Louis area high schools require community service hours, thus heightening the demand for volunteer work for teens.
“My goal is to promote opportunities for youth volunteers in our community, encouraging both students to get involved and non-profit organizations to create and develop volunteer training programs for teens,” Bernstein said.
Leading by example, Bernstein volunteers for several of the organizations found on her website.
“I am really fortunate to have found interesting and rewarding volunteer work opportunities since I was 13 at The Magic House, Richmond Heights Public Library and most recently at our local VA Hospital and St. Louis Crisis Nursery,” Berstein said. “Volunteering has offered me such great learning experiences outside of the classroom along with the opportunity to meet interesting people and help serve in the community.”
Satisfied with her personal volunteering experiences, Bernstein recommends other youth to find equally rewarding volunteer work.
“There are so many organizations that need volunteers,” Bernstein said. “Try to find an organization that matches your interests. If you enjoy writing, see if you can assist with the agency’s newsletter or website. If you like to play chess, go downtown to the Veteran’s Hospital and set up a game with a patient.”
With the economy in such a poor state, volunteer work may provide work experience for youth unable to find employment.
“Volunteering  provides job skills and often can lead to employment at the organization,” Bernstein said. “Many of The Magic House youth volunteers who I volunteered with are now employees at the museum.”
Bernstein hopes that stlouisvolunteen.com will be updated on a weekly basis over the next year. If all goes as planned, other students will volunteer to update the site when Bernstein is unable to do so. It’s fitting that the future of stlouisvolunteen.com relies on the willingness of St. Louis youth to devote time and energy to its maintenance. Senior Simone Bernstein has created the website www.stlouisvolunteen.com to make volunteer opportunities more accessible for teens.

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The student news site of Clayton High School.
Student-made website informs about youth volunteer options