A mobile app helps North Fork students track community service hours

A mobile app coming to North Fork school districts might bring students one step closer to community service opportunities.

Beginning in 2020, Southold High School students can download and use an app called Passport For Good, which tracks each student’s involvement in community service, career development and school clubs and activities. Mattituck High School adopted the app in the 2018-19 academic year.

For several years, principal Shawn Petretti said, the district has offered students a Service Learning Enhancement on their diplomas if they accumulate 65 hours of community service over the course of their high school career.

However, the tedious process of tracking service hours on paper was discouraging students from registering for the credit they were due, he said.

“We found students were doing community service, but the paperwork was so cumbersome they weren’t submitting their hours,” he said. “Passport for Good approached us and … [it ] allows them to do all of that previous paperwork online.”

In only a few months, Mattituck students have logged over 1,700 community service hours and 30% of students are registered with the app, Mr. Petretti said. Members of the Community Service Club and the school secretary have been trained in the app.

Program founder and CEO Gayle Farman of Albany, N.Y., said the app was created in 2015 to solve a problem her own children faced while preparing for college.

“There was no way for them to chronicle their journey of everything that they were doing outside of the classroom,” Ms. Farman said.

She contacted hundreds of school district administrators and counselors in upstate New York and found the problem was widespread. It prompted Ms. Farman to find developers for an app that measured and verified student engagement in education.

Now, school districts are able to purchase a subscription to Passport for Good through BOCES, which then becomes a service supported by state aid. Approximately 22 districts are using the app in New York State.

The app also provides each district with engagement data that shows how many community service hours students are pursuing and which partnerships they’re creating, Ms. Farman said.

Although Southold has not yet rolled out the app, administrators there “have a vision for Passport for Good to establish the importance of capturing the whole student,” Ms. Farman said.

“The whole student might not just be doing community service, they may be participating in chess or newspaper club, they may be working a job after-school to support their family, they may have to watch siblings after school,” she said. “All of this can go into [the app] and give teachers and counselors a bigger picture of who their students are.”

Similarly, Mr. Petretti said the high school consistently tries to connect students with outside career opportunities to promote a more well-rounded education.

Community service is a prominent part of the Mattituck community, Mr. Petretti said, with organizations like Mattituck Lions Club and Kait’s Angels often donating scholarships and funding to the schools. One of the messages he tries to convey to students, he said, is how privileged they are to be a part of a generous community.

“There’s only so much we can teach students within the brick and mortar of this building and I feel it’s important that they go out and interact with the community and be involved,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn through doing and being exposed to something, and that could be life-changing for them.”

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