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Friday, April 18, 2014

Heroes of the Week: Outlet: Plugging People In Volunteers

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Founded in 2011 by recently retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Kathleen End, Outlet: Plugging People In is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit that operates an online database of volunteer, extracurricular, pre-college and career opportunities available for teens.

“When I was teaching, I could tell my students about activities they could get involved in, but there was not a central database to get kids connected,” says End. “I wanted to help kids connect to these opportunities and that’s where Outlet comes in.”

Teens and adults can become free members of Outlet and choose their own opportunities to connect with. Coaches (adult volunteers) volunteer with small groups of youth, provide online support, advice and encouragement, and also evaluate teen members on aspects such as being on time, dressing appropriately and working hard. The teens are then awarded points and can cash them in for “cultural experience awards,” which can include tickets to theater, art and music shows, sporting events, museums and other enrichment experiences. Currently, Outlet’s database has 160 members (40 coaches, 120 students) and more than 1,600 volunteer hours were donated in 2013.

“Every day I am impressed with the giving that my students and coaches show,” says End. “It’s so great that they are out there doing things to help make this world a better place. This year we are looking to expand and are focused on getting more kids involved in service and extra curricula.”

Outlet: Plugging People In is looking for more coaches, as well as volunteers interested in helping with recruitment events, connecting Outlet with other organizations or joining the technical and special events committees. Donations of iPads and tickets for enrichment experiences are also needed. For more information, call 414-431-1830 or visit outletplugmein.org.