Jay Rachakonda has always loved building things, from robots to community partnerships. Jay fell in love with robotics and engineering from a young age, and wanted to make sure his peers had the chance to see the fun in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as well. When Jay learned about the barriers that kept his friends and classmates from participating in STEM activities, including required programs costs and COVID protocols, Jay became committed to finding ways to overcome challenges and inspire others to give STEM activities a try.
Jay built on his long standing passion for STEM and robotics by taking a leadership role in Funbotics. He saw ways the program could be made more available for underserved and marginalized students, and dedicated his time, talent, and energy to making sure every student had the option to participate. “Jay’s passion for community impact drives his continuous desire to take Northern Virginia Funbotics to new heights,” describes Pranav Avasarala, the founder of Funbotics. When Jay joined Funbotics, there were less than 5 active volunteers and looming funding challenges. With a spirit of dedication, determination, and creativity, Jay secured new funding, connected with community partners, and inspired others to join as co-leaders and volunteers to expand availability of summer camp and regular school year programming. The Northern VA chapter of Funbotics is proud to now have over 50 active volunteers and an annual budget that supports program growth, due in great part to Jay’s contributions and service.
He continues to stretch beyond the school walls to make sure programming is widely available virtually and through local libraries, as well as garnering support from local companies and grant programs. Notably, the expansion and development of Funbotics programs is only part of what makes Jay such an asset to his community. Jay has also maintained a focus throughout his service to his school and his community on encouraging and inspiring students as the especially those hesitant about their STEM abilities. Numerous partners describe the influence Jay has on students, getting younger participants excited about STEM and encouraging them to find their passion. “Although small in the grand scheme of Jay’s work with Funbotics, [seeing the impact he had on a disinterested student] was one of the incidents that brought me to respect him as a volunteer at heart, working through Funbotics because of a true desire for community impact and the smiles on kids’ faces,” says Tonya Kirkland, a community partner that worked with Jay to host a summer camp program. “As part of Funbotics, outside his organizational and leadership duties, Jay has influenced numerous students as an outstanding teacher.”
Patriot Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Club
Story of Service: Patriot Family, Career and Community Leaders of America Club
Students at Patriot High School are encouraged to develop their full leadership potential, demonstrate integrity, understand the importance of character, and consistently display pride: pride in their accomplishments, community, and school. Members of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Club used these values as they answered the call to serve in their local community. Each year, the students engaged in the Patriot FCCLA Club come together to contribute their time and talent to support the local community. By hosting events and service projects, club members seek to make a difference and leave a legacy that contributes to the...
Story of Service: Doug Mueller
Congratulations to Doug Mueller, one of the many dedicated Virginia volunteers who was nominated for the 2023 Serve Virginia Honor Roll, which spotlights the volunteers that serve their communities in a variety of ways, promoting quality of life and creating a lasting impact for others across the Commonwealth! In early 2020, when Doug began volunteering at the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve near Portsmouth, Virginia, he had retired from a job in the U.S. government and was mourning the death of his 95-year-old father just months earlier. Doug recalls, "Dad was standing by my side when I enlisted in the U.S....
Story of Service: Rachel Haines
Rachel Haines came to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the United Way of Southwest Virginia (UWSWVA) as they had just received funding for three new initiatives (credential study, a speakers’ bureau, and internships). At first it was a challenge to comprehend the scope of the region’s 19 cities/counties and 92 schools, but Rachel successfully navigated the area’s various unique communities and their needs. Rachel serves as a Youth Success Coordinator for UWSWVA’s Ignite Program. Ignite is the only regional workforce development program in the K12 school system providing career awareness and hands-on skill development to more than 30,000 students...
Story of Service: Lizzie Scott
Senior Corps Senior Companion of the Year Lizzie Scott, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, Norfolk For the seniors in Lizzie Scott’s community, she provides so much more than companionship. Her dedication to service has enabled individuals to stay in their own homes and live independently. Mrs. Scott, who has volunteered with some of her clients for more than five years, transports them to medical appointments and errands, makes sure their pantries have plenty of food, and helps out doing light meal preparation and housework. She also links clients with much needed community resources. For one client, she provided assistance when faced...
Story of Service: Lucy Cummins
Congratulations to Lucy Cummins of Richmond - winner of the 2021 Governor's Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Young Adult Volunteer! The Health Brigade, a free clinic in downtown Richmond, became a vital resource for many as COVID-19 infections began to rise in Central Virginia. Lucy Cummins may have originally stepped into her role as a patient navigator to assist with Spanish interpretation and translation services, but quickly pivoted to address and overcome a number of challenges presented by the pandemic. Putting aside her own academic needs in developing her translation skills, Lucy got to work helping to get...
Virginia Cancer Specialists of Arlington
Story of Service: Virginia Cancer Specialists of Arlington
In Arlington, when low-income uninsured patients need cancer care, they have a wonderful option: Virginia Cancer Specialists of Arlington (VCS) -- winner of the 2016 Governor's Volunteerism Award for Outstanding Small Business. Without VCS, these patients would likely not receive the cancer treatment they need, which can often cost more than $50,000 a month. Fortunately superior care is provided because VCS believes that health care for all community members is a human right and that, as members of the community, VCS is responsible for helping anyone in need, regardless of that person’s ability to pay. VCS is an outstanding partner...