Palmetto High School juniors Alexandr Kim and John Aitken created VolunteeringMiami.org, a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities for teens looking to do community service.
“Essentially, Volunteering Miami enhances an existing process by cataloging volunteering opportunities and systematizing the process of connection,” Kim says. “Our site can accommodate practically any volunteer specifications. We want our catalog to be representative of all of the work that needs to be done in Miami.”
Kim understands the need to make connections. He and his family immigrated to the U.S. in 2010 and he arrived knowing no one and not speaking English.
“I was coming home from my first volunteering job in the summer of 2019,” Kim says. “On the bus from Little Havana, I realized that there was so much volunteering work that I never knew existed.”
He talked to Aitken, with the idea of a universal platform for volunteers and recruiters.
“We knew that it would be a big project, requiring several thousands of lines of code, but we started building it,” he says. “We wanted to make this tool for kids like us who wanted to experience volunteering but didn’t know where to start.”
While Kim is the business side of the partnership, the site was built from scratch by Aitken.
Aitken took his time, learning as he went. He watched tutorials on Google to learn how to create the site.
“My knowledge was not as experienced as it would become,” he says. “The summer before I had done basics of HTLM. It was usually only for fun. This is the first full functioning system I was able to architect.”
In researching the variety of organizations that would be good volunteer opportunities, they quickly realized that some of the sites needed updating and the applications were clunky.
“Additionally, our site doubles as a tool for volunteers to format their credentials into professional applications,” Kim said. “An elegant solution for a problem no one has tried to tackle.”
The website, VolunteeringMiami.org, went online in early December. They were able to fill dozens of volunteering opportunities in the first two weeks.
The website cuts through the hassle of looking at a slew of websites and allows students to go to one place to find opportunities and a streamlined application process.
“We don’t hold sensitive student data,” Kim says.
The friends met freshman year at school while playing chess in the media center.
“We built a process we wanted to use,” Kim says. “The more exciting thing, is how big this could grow. There is work to be done and people capable to do it.”
Kim and Aitken spoke to students at Palmetto about the website the week of Nov. 30. Once they gain enough mass at Palmetto, they plan to launch the project at Coral Reef High School and the New World Center for the Arts.
“Our student infrastructure network is already established in close to a half dozen schools,” Kim says. “We only need to show them that there’s work to be done.”
Their goals include keeping the site up-to-date with new opportunities and keeping the site user friendly. They want to grow the site to help more students and organizations.
“We know we can take this project very far,” Kim says. “It’s hard to quantify the effect a volunteering job can have on a person.”