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”

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“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.


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.

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“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

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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.