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Helena Zimmerman, 19
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VOLUNTARISM36 Under 36 2020

Helena Zimmerman, 19

Virtual Volunteering

What you do:

I am currently a student at Cornell University studying business at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. In addition, I am a founder of TeensGive.org, a 501(c)3 organization that connects high school students to engaging and meaningful volunteer opportunities both in person and online. By running my virtual tutoring platform, TeensGive, I hope to provide students around the world access to our amazing team of virtual tutors to help with homework. I also love volunteering at local community centers, where I teach fun and educational curriculums to lower- and middle-school students. I recently published one of my favorite curriculums in a book titled “Teaching Social Entrepreneurship to Build Young Minds,” which is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Quote you live by:

“Doing good to others is not a duty, it is a joy, for it increases our own health and happiness.”

How you got here:

The inspiration for TeensGive was born from my mitzvah project. I created a mini-bakery to benefit P.S. 182, a school in Harlem where my family volunteers. Although the profits I generated were modest, the experience was priceless, affording me a feeling of accomplishment and tikkun olam.

Many of my peers have not been as fortunate in their endeavors, partially because there are so few opportunities that offer teens a chance to work directly with underserved populations. Service options are often limited to clothing drives and cleanup projects that leave many with a feeling of dread and ineffectuality, rather than accomplishment. I decided to take action and change this mindset with TeensGive. Our community wants to give back, but are looking for opportunities that are rewarding and flexible.

How does your Jewish identity/Jewish values influence the work that you do?

Throughout my childhood, my connection to Judaism existed through my temple, Central Synagogue, where I went to school, attended Shabbat service and learned about tzedakah, mitzvot and tikkun olam.  When I became a bat mitzvah, I visited Israel, which ignited my understanding of the importance of Israel to Jews around the world. In fact, I am returning to Israel this summer where I will learn about entrepreneurship in the Middle East. I am proud to be an alumni of the Leaders for Tomorrow, AJC’s education and advocacy program for teens. LFT helps high school students develop a strong Jewish identity, training them as advocates for Israel, giving them the tools to talk about the issues impacting world Jewry and instilling in them the confidence to stand up for these issues in college and beyond.

Follow me: Teensgive.org

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