Humber Research is committed to supporting innovative entrepreneurship and industry growth in collaboration with faculty and students at Humber College. Christiane MacKenzie, founder of Get Your Hours, is one such entrepreneur whose ground-breaking online student resource was launched this month.
When Christiane Mackenzie’s younger brother had trouble finding volunteer opportunities, she had an idea for a website that would highlight charities and provide a platform for students to keep track of their mandatory volunteer hours and meet their volunteer goals. The first of its kind, Get Your Hours connects students in need of volunteer hours with charities in need of volunteers. With the help of the Humber Research Office, and a grant from Colleges Ontario Netowrk for Industry Innovation (CONII). faculty member Bernie Monette and Christiane MacKenzie were brought together to collaboarte on this innovative idea.
As stated in the Ontario Secondary Schools Grade 9 to 12 Program and Diploma Requirements 1999 (OSS), every student who begins secondary school during or after the 1999-2000 school year must complete a minimum of 40 hours of community involvement activities as part of the requirements for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
While previously students had to track years of volunteer work on a piece of scrap paper, Get Your Hours makes the process of youth engagement and volunteer work more exciting, intuitive, and accessible for the internet savvy high school generation. The platform matches students with volunteer opportunities based on their interests, allows students to track their hours online, and receive verification from guidance counselors within their school.
Christiane MacKenzie and faculty member Bernie Monette, Program Coordinator of the Website Development Program, began project development for Get Your Hours in April 2013 after receiving a Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII) grant. Their challenge was to create an online tool that could be used as a central resource for school boards looking to track and verify students’ volunteer work, as well as help students find more meaningful volunteer opportunities in their community.
“I had an idea, and support from school boards and charities – but I needed the technical support to help make it possible,” explains the 28-year-old television producer and entrepreneur. “I had heard of the web development program at Humber, knew it had a great reputation, and approached them to see if they could help. They jumped right on board.”
Students in the Website Development Program at Humber were hired to design the back end of the platform under the supervision of Bernie Monette. After months of development, networking, and partnerships, the site is being pilot-tested in schools across the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic School Board.
The mandated volunteer work, which is intended to reinforce civic responsibility, strengthen community, and enhance high school students’ capacity for networking and self confidence, is an important form of experiential learning for teenagers. Get Your Hours enhances the capacity for volunteer work to be more meaningful to students by facilitating volunteer opportunities that cater to individual interests, and by making volunteer opportunities more readily accessible online.
The website, called Get Your Hours, is now in use by the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Mackenzie plans to expand the platform to other school boards in the province.