The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Fulfilling community service hours can sometimes be drudgery for students who must complete the requirement before graduating from high school.
Edan Evenhaim, 17, and his best friend and classmate, Noah Emanuel, wanted to make community service both accessible and fun for their peers — so they started a website.
“Myself and my peers, we were just not enjoying the experience of community service,” said Evenhaim, a senior at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, Calif. “So we thought about how we could make it more enjoyable and not only about fulfilling a requirement.”
The website 23hrs.com matches teens with community service opportunities based on their location, skills and interests. The site also tracks the number of hours that the teens volunteer and sends the data to their school for recording purposes. To make the experience more social, the site also has photo sharing and tagging features.
“Community service should be about grabbing some friends and going out to volunteer somewhere,” said Evenhaim, a basketball player for his high school team who is applying to several universities in California for next year.
With the help of his father, Shawn Evenhaim, chairman of the Israeli American Council, he raised the $50,000 needed to build the site. Evenhaim has been working out the bugs on the site, which is still in its “pilot stage,” while recruiting his fellow students to sign up.
He said the site has matched approximately 150 students with 28 community service opportunities. Evenhaim anticipates that by the end of the academic year, students at several additional Los Angeles-area Jewish day schools will be using the site to find community service opportunities, log their hours and share photos with friends.
“I think it’s important for teenagers to be exposed to situations and people outside of their comfort zones,” Evenhaim said. “They’ll understand just how fortunate they are and want to give back and will keep contributing.”
JTA spoke to Evenhaim about his hero, his most meaningful Jewish experience and the Sunday morning ritual he holds sacred.
What do you think are important qualities of a hero?
A hero really makes a difference in someone’s life and is someone who’s a leader. You really have to be extremely understanding to be a hero.
Who is your hero?
My dad, because I see what he goes through every day and how he makes a difference. He takes care of so much and never complains.
What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
It’s pretty hard not to say Hanukkah. It’s very happy and optimistic.
Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you’ve had?
In eighth grade, for my bar mitzvah project, I raised money for Israeli teens that had lost a relative in the [Israel Defense Forces] to come on a trip to L.A. I spent time with them and got to know them. It ignited my love of service.
What kind of things do you like to do for fun?
I like watching sports and going to breakfast every Sunday with my friends.
What do you think you want to be when you grow up?
I don’t know yet. I am very open, and I want to study business. I’m a self-starter and I don’t want to sit at a desk all day. I want to make a difference and do something worth remembering.
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