COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — A student-run group out of Howard County with a mission to help connect high schoolers with local non-profits has been hard at work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group is called “VolunTeens”

“It’s really rewarding to know that I am helping others without a specific reward, it’s more of I’m learning about my community and how I can help others,” said Camryn Johnson.

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Michael Zhao, a rising senior at Atholton High School in Columbia, created the program back in December.

“There’s actually a really big disconnect between the students and the service opportunities in their area, so I created VolunTeens to kind of address that issue,” Zhao said.

Since then, the group has lent a helping hand in a variety of projects.

On Monday, VolunTeens helped build the Community Ecology Institute’s “Imagination Stage” for home school students.

“It’s for them to play on and preform,” Zhao said.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, volunteens shifted their focus to meet the needs of the community.

“We started a GoFundMe campaign in mid-March and we raised over $2,100,” Zhao said. “And we’ve been using the money to purchase meals and masks”

In the future, once restrictions are lifted, VolunTeens plans to host a celebratory basketball tournament.

But, In the meantime, they hope to connect as many high school students as they can with local non-profits.

“I love working here,” Johnson said. “It’s given me something to do even though COVID has taken away so many things. This is something I can give back and make positive use of my time.”

VolunTeens will be hosting a virtual volunteer fair Wednesday afternoon between 2 and 3:30 p.m. through Zoom. If you’re interested in signing up, you can contact volunteensco@gmail.com

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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