Behind the Scenes at #Digital4Good 2019

“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. It’s always deep in my heart to do that for my community, it will always be a part of my life, and I hope it will become part of yours too.”  – Shreyaa Venkat, co-founder, NEST4US

On September 15th and 16th, students, educators, and industry friends gathered at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park to celebrate the power of kindness, giving, and positivity. Organized by the California-based nonprofit #ICANHELP, #Digital4Good is now in its third year of honoring notable student achievements in positive tech and media use.

The students featured in this year’s event have led initiatives that feed the homeless, fund innovative pediatric cancer research, focus on suicide prevention, and so much more.

Aside from a selfless desire to help others, the thread that binds all of these students together is social media. Each of them uses a variety of social networks to amplify their reach, share their initiatives, and help their communities. Today, it’s more important than ever that we provide online spaces where they are free to share without fear of harassment or abuse.

Two Hat has been lucky enough to attend #Digital4Good for the last three years, and we are happy to report that it’s only getting better with age. #Digital4Good 2019 was the biggest and best yet, full of powerful speakers, inspirational stories, and one unifying message: When used for good, technology has an unparalleled power to connect us in meaningful ways.

An opportunity to connect

Speaking of connection, there was an added dimension to #Digital4Good this year. #ICANHELP founders Matt Soeth and Kim Karr paired industry experts with winners to mentor them through their #Digital4Good journey, providing insight, feedback, and encouragement as they prepared for the big day.

In our experience – and in speaking to other mentors, we’re not alone – the student winners were the real mentors. They inspired us to spearhead charitable works in our own organizations and they re-energized us to take action and inspire real change in the world around us.

Two Hat was honored to mentor Shreyaa Venkat, co-founder of NEST4US. A senior at Broad Run high school in Virginia, Shreyaa began her community service in the fifth grade and has since logged more than 850 hours of volunteer time.

A young woman stands in front of a sign reading #Digital4Good
Shreyaa Venkat, co-founder of NEST4US

She founded NEST4US with her younger sister Esha to help feed the homeless and reduce food waste. Since founding the 501©3 non-profit, they have expanded to provide tutoring services and “Birthday in a Box” for underprivileged kids through Nest Buddies, their latest initiative.

[Read more about Shreyaa’s work in Lessons in Kindness: How NEST4US is Giving Back to the Community]

Behind the scenes at #Digital4Good

On Sunday, September 15th, winners and mentors gathered at Instagram for an afternoon of conversation, roundtables, and even a Shark Tank-style pitch competition.

Winners met with experts from a variety of disciplines and learned marketing techniques, how to expand their reach, the best ways to use social media, and how to pitch to corporations. The Shark Tank judges (including previous #Digital4Good winner Karah Hopgood and Trust & Safety expert Anne Collier, and more) presented the #DigitalRockStar Awards.

#Digital4Good student winners pose on a stage with Matt Soeth and Kim Karr
The winners with #ICANHELP co-founders Matt Soeth and Kim Karr

Monday, September 16th was the big day. We gathered at Facebook HQ and went live at 9:30 am. About 300 teachers, students, and industry representatives from across the country joined us at Facebook. Thousands more tuned into the live stream. Hosts March For Our Lives co-founder Tyah-Amoy Roberts and Count Me In founder Shane Feldman introduced the winners and kept things lively between presentations.

Two young people in front of a #Digital4Good sign holding microphones
#Digital4Good hosts Tyah Amoy-Roberts and Shane Feldman entertaining the crowd

Speakers included “Ten Feet Tall” speaker and author Brandon Farbstein and Instagram comedian AdamW. We watched the debut trailer for a short student film about the power of social media on teens’ life and learned how to manage a social media crisis.

Brandon Farbstein stands on a #Digital4Good stage
Inspirational speaker Brandon Farbstein shared his story of severe cyberbullying

At the end of the event, Matt and Kim got on stage and led us in the #ICANHELP chant – “I can help, I did help, I will help!” After that rousing declaration, there were hugs, thank you’s, and goodbyes.

We had planes and Ubers to catch, and work and school to get back to.

But everyone who attended walked away with the same feeling – there is no limit to what we can achieve with a little kindness, a willingness to give, and the technology that allows us to share.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?What is your idea of the perfect day?

A message of hope

At #Digtal4Good, we were reminded that social media is one of the most powerful tools in the world. Our job at Two Hat is to ensure that everyone – student, child, or adult – who uses online communities to share can do so without fear of harassment or abuse.

We are more inspired than ever to continue our mission – helping social networks build safe and healthy online communities by removing negative social interactions to make room for positive human connections.

But we can’t do it alone. Will you join us? 


Two Hat believes that everyone should be free to share online without fear of harassment or abuse. We also believe that making this vision a reality is a shared responsibility.

That’s why we have allied ourselves with diverse organizations including non-profits, government agencies, private companies, and industry alliances to share best practices, produce online safety resources, and spread the word of proactive, purposeful content moderation.

Does your organization share a similar vision? If so, we would love to hear from you at hello@twohat.com.


Learn more about the #Digital4Good 2019 winners: 

Shreyaa Venkat – NEST4US
Riley Damiano – The Blue Lollipop Project
Olivia Rush – Sunshine Loves You
Clementine Chamberlain – Tampon Tuesday
Gabby Frost – The Buddy Project
Michael Pascal – Vets Van
Christina Mazzi – Project WOC
Ashley Lin – Project Exchange
Shreeya Aora – Tracking Our Heroes

Lessons in Kindness: How NEST4US is Giving Back to the Community

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.

Shreyaa Venkat tutoring students

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.

Feeding the homeless with NEST4US

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?

Shreyaa serving at Central Union Mission in Washington, DC

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

Supporting Student Voices and Digital Leadership with #Digital4Good

On September 15th and 16th, students, educators, and industry friends will gather at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park to celebrate the power of kindness, giving, and positivity. Organized by the California-based nonprofit #ICANHELP, #Digital4Good is now in its third year of honoring student achievements in positive tech and media use. The students featured in this year’s event have led initiatives that feed the homeless, fund innovative pediatric cancer research, focus on suicide prevention, and so much more.

Two Hat is excited to announce that we are proudly supporting #Digital4Good for the third year in a row.

In addition to celebrating with the winners at the event itself in September, we are also taking part in a brand-new initiative and mentoring one of the winners.

Shreyaa Venkat is a junior at Broad Run High School who founded the non-profit organization NEST4US, dedicated to feeding the hungry, inspiring youth to volunteer, and connect the world. In a short time, NEST4US has grown from a small family-based project to an impactful organization with over 350 young dedicated volunteers wanting to make the world better.

Keep watching the blog for an interview with Shreyaa – we guarantee she will inspire you to give back! 

Make sure you tune in to the #Digtal4Good live event on Monday, September 16th from 9:00 am – 10:oo am PST for the “power hour,” during which all ten student winners will present their projects.

Sign up here to receive the direct live stream link on September 16th.


Want to learn more about #Digital4Good and #ICANHELP? Check out these blog posts:

How #ICANHELP is Empowering a New Generation of Digital Citizens (an interview with co-founder Matt Soeth)

#ICANHELP Light the Fire: An Interview With Musician Lisa Heller

Introducing the Tech Power Panel at #Digital4Good

Four Surprising Lessons I Learned From Students at #Digital4Good

We believe that everyone should be free to share without fear of abuse or harassment.

We also believe that making this vision a reality is a shared responsibility.

That’s why we’ve allied with diverse organizations including non-profits, government agencies, private companies, and industry alliances to share best practices, produce online safety resources, and spread the word of proactive, purposeful content moderation.

We’ve partnered with #ICANHELP because they empower students to use social media in a positive, healthy way.