Katelyn Pomroy was still a month short of her 15th birthday when she attempted to round up a team of volunteers to take from the Gold Coast to Brisbane to help with the post-flood clean-up in 2011.
The logistics of the challenge would prove insurmountable for the enterprising teen on that occasion, but her passion for volunteering would not be deterred by the temporary setback.
Five years later the Griffith Honours College student is a driving force behind Youth for the Community, an initiative that has led to Katelyn securing the $8,000 top prize in a prestigious student competition run by Ernst and Young.
‘Survive the Panel’ invites students to pitch a big idea in a Dragons’ Den-type scenario, presenting the business case for the plan and how it stacks up financially.
“I saw an ad for it on Facebook and thought ‘Why not?’” Katelyn says.
Before she knew it, her 100-word spur-of-the-moment piece had landed her into the next round where the top 20 entrants were required to assemble a 4000-word business case.
Katelyn, a double degree student of forensic science and criminology and criminal justice, set to work and once her presentation had been drafted she sought the guidance of Griffith staff to identify ways to develop a sustainable business plan.
“I felt I need some advice on the business elements of my plan. I didn’t see it as a money-making venture and I wanted to keep it true to my idea.”
Katelyn’s idea was to develop an app that bridged the gap between not-for-profit community organisations looking for volunteers and young people interested in volunteering. The app will also include an option to volunteer in a natural disaster situation.
“Youth for the Community is an initiative that will allow youth to easily participate in volunteering activities within their community,” she explained to the panel in Sydney, after qualifying with three business students for the grand finale.
“The idea stemmed from my own volunteering experiences in high school, which enabled me to discover the benefits and joys of youth volunteering.
“Through this initiative I want to give other youth around Australia the opportunity to make a difference and gain life time experiences.”
Katelyn’s big idea caught the imagination of the judging panel which explored its far-reaching possibilities, particularly around corporate volunteering, during a challenging question-and-answer session at the end of the presentation.
“I had been curious if professionals and industry would connect with my concept,” she says. “But the potential benefits for large business organisations with a volunteering charter were obvious to the panel members.”
With the support of an Ernst and Young mentor and working with two other Griffith students, Katelyn hopes to start development of the app in early 2016.
She is confident that this venture will complement her volunteer role with the SES and a summer internship at the Centre for Ancient DNA in Adelaide to propel her towards a career with the federal police as a forensic biologist.
“Volunteering offers an excellent opportunity to align your skills and experience with your future career. It can provide an advantage when it comes to future opportunities down the track.
“I would encourage anyone interested in volunteering to think carefully about what they want to do. Don’t pick activities you’re not passionate about. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re not gaining the full benefit for yourself or for the community.”