VolunteerRGV wins Rep. Filemon Vela’s 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Texas’s 34th District

Rep. Filemon Vela has named Aaron Jacob and Vivianna Lieu from South Texas ISD Science Academy as the winners of the 2021 Congressional App Challenge in Texas’s 34th District.

When asked what inspired the creation of VolunteerRGV, the students said, “The benefits of taking an active role in the community are numerous. When students get involved, they develop transferable skills– such as leadership, time management, teamwork, community service, and problem-solving–, make a positive difference in their community, and experience an increase in happiness and fulfillment within themselves. Despite this, however, many high school students either volunteer simply to fulfill graduation requirements or fail to volunteer at all.

This can largely be attributed to the fact that opportunities are not effectively communicated. In fact, when speaking to a local high school counselor, she remarked, “ many times we do hear how students don’t do community service because they don’t know where to volunteer or where to start.” Volunteer opportunities are typically shared through morning announcements, paper fliers, word of mouth, and even occasionally, social media posts. However, these methods aren’t fully successful. Morning announcements are talked over, paper fliers fall or are only seen by certain students in certain hallways, word only travels to close friends and classmates, and there are so many social media accounts, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Having personally experienced this often confusing and chaotic process of finding opportunities, we were inspired to find a solution. We wanted a way to streamline the process, to make it easy for anyone –individuals, clubs, companies, organizations–, to recruit new people to serve and to sign up for events. We also wanted to make it easy to find opportunities that were relevant and interesting, a cause that students could connect to and be passionate about, long past the required amount of service hours. We hope that by making the entire process easier, students will be more inclined to get involved and experience its many benefits.”

The 2021 Congressional App Challenge yielded 2,101 fully functioning apps. After eighteen months of disruptions to educational cadences for students everywhere, the Congressional App Challenge came roaring back with 7,174 students registering for this year’s competition. All told, 340 Members of Congress hosted Congressional App Challenges in their districts across 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.

The Congressional App Challenge is an official initiative of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Members of Congress host contests in their districts for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science. Each participating Member of Congress selects a winning app from their district, and each winning team is invited to showcase their winning app to Congress during our annual #HouseOfCode festival. The program is a public-private partnership made possible through funding from Omidyar Network, AWS, theCoderSchool, Facebook, Replit, Accenture, and others.

The 2022 Congressional App Challenge will launch in June of 2022, and eligible students can pre-register for the competition now.