1. Students are digital natives, so the required tasks to participate in community service must reflect how they get things done with mobile tools, social media, and other technologies.
  2. Use technology designed to manage community service, rather than trying to morph a spreadsheet or relational database to fit the needs of such a specialized program.
  3. There should be at least one administrator or staff member as champion at the school, who reaches out to the community, builds relationships, and keeps students motivated.
  4. Show students how important community service is in college and scholarship applications by referring to other students’ successes. Give examples of how community service gives skills that students can use in future jobs.
  5. A school administrator is the best person to make first contact with an outside organization and get them registered into the management system. Once the relationship is established with the organization, a parent volunteer can take over as the contact—but that first official contact is critical.
  6. Invest in training teachers, volunteer parents, and the community organization representatives. Students don’t need training. Students will adopt a new program faster than teachers and administrators, so plan accordingly.
  7. Use every available source to promote volunteer opportunities and the community service program in general.
  8. Offer incentives to participate. We give white honor cords to students who complete 60 hours during their senior year, and a plaque for students who meet their service hour requirements all four years of high school.
  9. Be flexible, and consider all constructive input from students, mentors, organizations, and school staff during the transition process. Don’t be discouraged by bumps in the road while going to a paperless system.
  10. Use parent volunteers. Now that our program has gone through a full year, I am stepping back to let parent volunteers be more involved with the x2VOL program itself. I’ll now spend my time expanding our partnerships with businesses and community groups.

Final thoughts

When we shifted to x2VOL, our students immediately understood that our administration took community service seriously, because we adopted a system reflecting our students’ digital world. Bulletin boards are passé, but mobile apps are cool. Bringing community service into the 21st century allows me to get more involved in my students’ personal lives, their college and career choices, even their day-to-day choices about extracurricular activities. I can also work directly with organizations and local businesses, which has led to many terrific new opportunities I never expected.

Rómulo (Rom) Crespo, assistant principal at Morton Ranch High School in the Katy Independent School District, started his education career in 1996 as a teacher and coach. He was awarded the 2012 x2VOL Community Engagement Award from intelliVOL for outstanding leadership in community service, was a semi-finalist for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award, and was nominated for the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals Outstanding Secondary Assistant Principal Award in 2005-06 and 2009-10. He is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.