LIVINGSTON, NJ — The charitable endeavors of Livingston High School (LHS) students will now be rewarded with varsity letters thanks to sophomore Anusha Bansal, who recently founded the United Way (UW) Varsity Letter for Community Service Club at LHS.
Although she will personally earn a varsity letter as a member of the LHS fencing team, Bansal was determined to find a way for non-athletes to have the same opportunity and feels strongly that volunteerism is an equally deserving activity. Bansal, who is no stranger to community service, was volunteering with UW of Northern New Jersey as a freshman when she discovered the Varsity Letter for Community Service program and decided to establish a local chapter.
“I realized that much of our time playing sports under the LHS turf is counted towards earning the Varsity Letter,” said Bansal. “This letter gives us so much pride and inspires us to come back the next season.”
Realizing that many students “enjoy service and leadership development” more than they enjoy athletics, Bansal said she felt those students should be eligible for “an equivalent recognition” from the LHS administration.
“Much of my determination to form this club was also driven by the fact that many of our high school students stood up to help our community this past summer bound by COVID,” said Bansal. “I thought that their work must be recognized by LHS’ prestigious Varsity Letter.”
When she approached LHS administrators about the varsity letter program, Bansal said that they were “very supportive of the idea—especially with the impact on sports due to the pandemic.” Since then, Bansal has met with LHS administrators as well as UW representatives a handful of times to work out the details for the club.
Livingston school counselor Stephanie Molaro, who has volunteered to serve as the club’s faculty advisor, said she is thrilled to be a part of this new initiative.
“Through Anusha’s diligent research, preparation, organization and planning, we are very excited to bring United Way to Livingston High School,” said Molaro.
According to its website, UW Varsity Letter recognizes high school students who have made “an exceptional commitment to their community through volunteer work over the course of a year.” From the beginning of July to the end June each year, students must complete a minimum of 80 hours of community service, including 18 hours of UW service work, in order to receive a varsity letter.
Upon completion of a full year of service participating students receive a varsity letter in Community Service and are recognized during an event hosted by the UW.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of required hours has been reduced. Additionally, all students must ensure that their volunteering is socially distanced and safe.
Participating students are able to volunteer for government entities, school organizations or any organization with 501©3 status. Some examples of volunteer projects that are aligned with UW of Northern New Jersey include food collections, stocking and distributing food at a food bank and reading to children (virtually). More examples can be found HERE.
The LHS Key Club, which sponsored by Livingston Kiwanis, also offers service-hour opportunities to students that can be applied toward their varsity letter hours.
According to Bansal, more than 65 students attended the club’s interest meeting and more students have continued to sign up over the last few weeks.
“I feel that every student should take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and earn the LHS Varsity Letter or pin,” said Bansal, who encouraged all LHS students to consider participating.
Applications to join Livingston’s UW Varsity Letter Club for Community Service Club are due by Nov. 30.