At 17, most teenagers are just getting their driver's license. Simone Bernstein, however, was launching St. Louis Volunteen, a targeted website for peers who, like her, wanted to devote their time and effort to worthy causes but felt hamstrung by limitations within charitable groups.
"There are so many organizations that only take people who are 18 and over because of liability," Bernstein, now 18, told The Huffington Post. "I really wanted to find a place that could utilize my skills, whether it was an hour a day two hours a day, I wanted to find somewhere where I could really be a part of their organization."
Bernstein built a website for the program despite what she described as "zero" design experience. St. Louis Volunteen now has 2,500 Twitter followers, gets about 1,600 visitors a month, and is distributed across 16 local school websites.
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world," reads the Anne Frank quote at the top of the site's homepage. Bernstein said she built the site with Frank's words in mind.
Though she's now based in New York, studying in an eight-year medical program, Bernstein said she continues working with teens in the St. Louis area, redesigning the site to "make it more user-friendly." Beyond matching teens with volunteer organizations, she said she is eager to encourage groups that don't yet offer youth-service programs to consider the benefits of harnessing that energy.
"I really wanted to show organizations that if they didnt have a program, teens are the most motivated and enthusiastic to get out there and volunteer," said Bernstein.
The pleasures of volunteer work, she said, are simple, but all parties benefit.
"I really enjoy just working with other people and learning their stories," she said. "It's realizing that it's not all about giving back, it's about how much you're gaining from your experience volunteering."
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