Explain how Opp-Guide works.
Students, parents or teachers can identify community service opportunities in their own neighborhoods (or in unfamiliar locations) just by downloading the App and typing in a keyword or by choosing from categories, such as education or health.
The Opp-Guide has also begun to sponsor the development of short documentaries on various topics such as youth hunger in Broward County and an examination of the 9/11 tragedy ten years later from different vantage points and perspectives. The Opp-Guide is also involved with a series of community service projects in conjunction with the organization GenerationOn.
What motivated you to start Opp-Guide?
The Opp-Guide was established approximately eight years ago by my older sisters as a community service resource. Initially the Guide was literally a pocket-sized booklet, similar to the Zagat (restaurant) guide, which was distributed among guidance counselors, parents, librarians, and high schools within Broward County, Fla. The Guide then developed an online presence and spread to the Palm Beach and Miami-Dade areas.
My goal was to expand the Opp-Guide to a whole new level: expanding it nation-wide by developing a mobile App, much like Yelp or any other (mobile) application. Besides expanding nation-wide, I felt that the Opp-Guide should be more accessible to a greater number of people, especially to a younger and more technologically savvy audience, by embracing new technology. The App is now available, for free, at the iTunes store. The App lists more than 300,000 (volunteer) opportunities and organizations, which can be searched via different categories and by location. (See screen shot below)
How did you develop the App?
Fortunately, I was able to raise enough funds from foundations and local businesses so that I could convince an engineering team to work with me to develop the App according to my specifications. After being inspired by hundreds of other Apps, I provided a detailed and thoughtful vision of features that I thought would work best for the Opp-Guide App. I believe that simplicity and ease of use were the most important factors in creating the application.
How has Opp-Guide evolved since 2004? Any plans for international expansion?
The Opp-Guide continues to evolve with new technology and ideas. Technology is now serving a much more central and integral role in the present society, which is a reminder for the Opp-Guide to continue to evolve and push for newer and better ways to expand upon our current layout.
Right now, our priorities are becoming more visible in the United States but there is no reason why the App could not easily be expanded to provide community service opportunities in other countries. The key will be tying into other existing databases in order to allow the project to scale more quickly and effectively.
Any words of inspiration for other young people looking to volunteer or start a business?
I’ve always believed that exchanging ideas and brainstorming with a group of people serves as a catalyst to spawn newer and better ideas. While creating new ideas is where you start, you have to quickly make sure you have a plan that can be described in a straightforward manner, making your vision understandable by others.
The photos below show Lance and his fellow Opp-App volunteers in action.
Building an organic garden
Funding to keep the operation going
Recognition for a job well done