We may be 8 months into 2019, but if you’re a parent, today is the real beginning of the year. School started on Monday for Atchison Public Schools USD 409 and Saint Benedict Catholic School, while Maur Hill-Mount Academy started on Tuesday.

This is an exciting time of year as kids meet their new teachers, start fall sports and parents breathe a sigh of relief as the chore of coming up with daily activities comes to an end. It has been a great summer with my daughters, and we fit a lot of fun into everyday, but after dropping them off at school, I will definitely enjoy those first few moments of silence.

Hopefully teachers got plenty of poolside time this summer because work starts in earnest today. I know there is often a little jealousy involved when talking about a job that gets the summers off, but when I see the passion our teachers approach kids with I know that they deserve every moment of it.

One thing our school system does that I love is require that students be active in their community by completing service hours. I think this does a great job of connecting students to those around them and introducing them to causes that are bigger than they are.

There is no end to the work that needs done, and hundreds of students that want/need to do it, but sometimes connecting volunteers to projects can be difficult. Students don’t always know where to start, and organizations can’t always find the help they need.

Enter Meredith Stoops the Service-Learning Director at Benedictine College. Meredith and BC are working to introduce Atchison to a service called GivePulse. At its core, Givepulse.com is a social media platform. Available as an app or website, it allows you to search for volunteer opportunities in our community and find something that you’re passionate about.

After registering you can join groups to follow their projects, keep track of your volunteer hours, and share your experience or impact. The benefits for students needing to fulfill service hours are obvious but GivePulse is also open to everyone. The service for volunteers is free, and the potential impact in our community is huge. Now it’s possible to match service opportunities to your schedule and find the things that are important to you.

Service organizations in town now have an amazing resource in their efforts to make a difference here in Atchison. Every BC student will have a GivePulse account and the college is transitioning to using GivePulse as the main way it communicates service opportunities internally.

If you work with a local nonprofit and want access to this pool of volunteers I strongly encourage you to sign up your organization. The basic services are free, and more than 20 local nonprofits have already joined and received training on how to maximize impact. GivePulse allows groups to schedule, manage, and organize all types of events, and then develop relationships with their volunteers.

Meredith is willing to help people and organizations learn how to use this new service. She can be reached at mstoops@benedictine.edu or 913-367-5340. Most of the functions are pretty intuitive and if you have experience with other social media platforms, but as you dig into it Meredith is available to answer any questions.

There is no silver bullet to meeting all of our communities needs, but GivePulse will help remove barriers to service. If you have a student that is needing volunteer hours for this school year, or are interested in serving yourself, I strongly encourage you to sign up. We have the power to make Atchison the community we dream of, and now we have one more tool to help us on our way.

Shawn Rizza has served as a City of Atchison commissioner since January 2018, following his election in November 2017 to a four-year term. His colleagues voted for him to serve as mayor at the first meeting of 2019.

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