Amanda Jayasekara’s Girl Scout sash is covered in more than 25 patches she’s received over the years for everything from learning important survival and life skills to volunteering and participating in activities like a father-daughter skate date.
The junior at Palm Springs High School doesn’t have much room left for patches, but does have a spot reserved for her “gold pin.”
“I have my bronze, my silver, I’m waiting for gold,” said the 16-year-old.
She’s referring to the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in girl scouting.
It is handed out to members in high school that accomplish a project that improves the community in which they reside.
Amanda points out that it has to be a “sustainable” project — something that continues to make a difference, not just a one-time thing.
For her project, she launched VolunTeen.net — a website intended to make “volunteering fast, easy and fun,” according to the site.
She got the idea for the project after facing frustration when she was trying to find a place to volunteer outside of school.
She had to go to individual organization websites, then sift through the various pages to find information on volunteering and then find out if they even allowed teens to participate.
Her friends interested in volunteering faced the same frustration.
“It would have been easier to have a site like this,” said Amanda.
She launched her website Oct. 21.
Now, when teens want to volunteer, all they have to do is check out her site. They can click on a city to find out what organizations need volunteers. Only organizations that allow teens to volunteer are listed on the page. And a link takes the user straight to the organization’s volunteer page to make it easy.
“It was fun. It was a learning experience,” she said of creating the page.
Get to know Amanda
Visit MyDesert.com to read Amanda’s Q &A session and learn what she has to say about Girl Scouts!
Spreading the word
Amanda had no idea how to create a website or even administer one once it was created.
With the help of a family friend she designed and created it over her summer vacation in Sri Lanka.
She serves as the administrator and now knows how to edit and alter it as new organizations come on board.
She started work on it in February and has one year to complete it. She is way ahead of schedule.
Her mother, Manori Jayasekara, pushed her to get it done early so she could then concentrate more on school and sports.
“Junior year is a very demanding year,” said Manori.
In addition to her Girl Scout involvement, Amanda has a tough class schedule with three AP classes and she participates in golf and track.
“My mom thinks I have too many things on my plate,” said Amanda.
Though the website is completed for now, there is the marketing of it that remains.
She already visited the Palm Springs City Council on Oct. 2 to let members know about the website and on Nov. 14 plans to make a presentation to the Palm Desert City Council.
The project impressed Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.
“To see what you’re doing in the high school in getting kids motivated to help their community whether it’s Palm Springs or throughout the Coachella Valley — it’s something we are delighted to see and hear about,” he said.
Amanda also plans to visit area schools to let other youth know about the website. One of the “coolest” features on the site is the “message board”
“Teens can interact with one another and share their experiences and encourage one another to volunteer in our community,” she said.