Shreyaa Venkat is no ordinary high school senior. A certified soccer referee and player, 3rd-degree black belt and assistant instructor at CJR Martial Arts, Kathak dancer, and recent graduate of the Governor’s School of Agriculture at Virginia Tech, she also maintains a 4.5 GPA and has been recognized as the top 3% of her class.
For most teens, that would be more than enough. Not for Shreyaa, who has dedicated her young life to giving back to the community. Since beginning her community service in the fifth grade, Shreyaa has logged more than 850 hours of volunteer time.
She’s also helping other students give back to the community through NEST4US, the nonprofit she founded to provide volunteer and leadership opportunities to make the world a better place through kindness. Because of her tireless efforts to feed the hungry and inspire youth in her community to give back, Shreyaa is one of ten #Digital4Good winners who will head to Facebook HQ in September to share her story.
Two Hat is an official supporter of #Digital4Good and also has the honor of mentoring Shreyaa before and after the event. We sat down to talk to her about the power of kindness, #Digital4Good, and using social media to spread a positive message.
What inspired you to initially get involved with volunteering? What inspires you now?
Initially, I would volunteer at many different events as a solo volunteer, but I wanted to get more of my friends and community involved, so along with my sister, Esha Venkat, I founded a nonprofit organization called NEST4US as a platform for giving back to the community in a multitude of ways. Our organization has grown from a small project to an impactful organization with over 450 dedicated volunteers.
As we give back to our community, we felt a sense of joy and pride that we are doing something meaningful and making a difference. The smiles and happiness on the faces of the people we serve are priceless.
My motivation comes mainly from the joy I get from giving back to the community, particularly the less fortunate as I feel that it’s my responsibility to help those in need.
What initiatives are you currently working on with NEST4US?
Currently, we’re hosting a school supply drive, sandwich assembly project, “Birthday in a Box” for underprivileged kids in local schools, and our regular feeding and tutoring programs as always!
Who nominated you for #Digital4Good?
My mom nominated me. She has been an extraordinary influence on my life and always will be. My mom has not only raised me to be a positive person but has supported me in every stage of my life.
What do you hope to get out of your experience at #Digital4Good?
First of all, I’m super excited to be part of the 2019 #Digital4Good initiative! From my experience, I hope to get more outreach for NEST4US and inspire more youth to get involved in their community. In addition, I would like to use what I learn in the conference (tips for increasing fundraising, enhancing mission/vision, better marketing, and more outreach) to help grow our organization more and more so that we can touch more lives and spread our impact to hopefully more states.
We have many plans that we want to implement (including releasing our new app Nestables that we built), but in order to do so, we would need lots of funding, so through #Digital4Good, I’m hoping to connect with more people for corporate sponsorships and partnerships.
What is the role of social media in your organization?
Social media is our main marketing tool for our events and programs and currently, we have pretty good outreach, particularly on Twitter, as we just reached 1K followers! In addition, through social media, we frequently post inspirational quotes in order to motivate everyone to spread kindness always.
How do you use social media to inspire people to get involved?
Through our social media platforms, I promote awareness of reducing hunger by advocating for zero waste and strive to spread kindness and project positive messages to my peers in order to support my community in any way possible.
What message would you like to share with young people who are reading this?
I really want the youth to look at the world in a different way – a world where they are not the center. Community service provides a great pathway for this, yet many kids claim that they don’t have enough time to volunteer. However, I believe that you don’t need to have time, you should make the time to help others. Nothing is impossible- you just need to have the passion and heart to give back. I strongly believe that, even if you have nothing else to give to someone, your kindness will mean the world to them.
Also, many people do community service solely for hours or some other incentive, which I believe defeats the purpose. Finding a volunteer activity that interests you or that you can along with people who share the same interests as you can really motivate you to volunteer with passion.
Learn more about NEST4US (and how you can help!) on their site
Follow NEST4US on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube
Learn more about #Digital4Good and how Two Hat is supporting the event
Read an interview with Matt Soeth, co-founder of #ICANHELP