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Internet spurs upswing in volunteerism
20 March 2008
by Wendy Koch

Youth volunteerism is surging as high school and college students use the Internet to mobilize quickly and nationally.

More than 22,000 non-profit groups have signed up to rally supporters on the teen-and-young-adult site MySpace since it began in 2004, says Jeff Berman, the site's executive vice president for marketing. He says more young people are engaged in activism online and their creativity in using the Internet to do good works is "off the charts."

Groups also have sprung up on Facebook, another social- networking site used by millions of students, to urge youth to fight global warming, help Hurricane Katrina victims, seek world peace or protest events such as charges brought against six black teens for beating a white classmate in Jena, La.

"Activism is at a very high level among college students, probably more than in the last 10 to 20 years," says Robert Rhoads, who teaches a class on the history of student activism at the University of California, Los Angeles. "There's a greater political consciousness among students," he says. "The Internet has played a role in that."

A growing number of college freshmen volunteer in their last year of high school, says John Pryor of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. He found in a survey that 83.3% did so last year, up from 66% in 1989. Some high schools make community service a graduation requirement, but 70% of those who volunteered were not required to do so.