Wanting to volunteer and raise money in a non-traditional manner, Greg Overholt related to the stress and struggle of the university student’s exam pressures, and created Students Offering Support, where volunteers lead review sessions, and those volunteers take the money raised and personally go to Latin America to help fund and build various homes and schools in today’s YEDaily…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
‘Raising Marks. Raising Money. Raising Roofs’ – Students Offering Support is an organization of university volunteers at 26 universities in Canada who coordinate and run exam-prep group review sessions (called ‘Exam-AIDs’). We ask for $20 to attend a session, and the funds raised are used to fund development projects across Latin America. These projects are not just funded, but BUILT by volunteers on two-week outreach trips at the end of the year.
Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
Wanting to volunteer smartly. Most charitable university organizations raise funds through bake sales, fundraisers, and parties. We felt that there would be interest from students on campus to help build ‘businesses for good,’ using entrepreneurial principles that provide want-satisfying goods and services for university students – and we were right!
In developing the Exam-AID tutoring initiative, the inspiration came from witnessing the ‘pain’. Throughout first year, we saw many of our peers struggling through economics. As second-year students who have been through the course, we thought a relatable peer could effectively help students grasp the complex concepts taught in lectures. That first year, we taught 150 economics students and raised $5,500!
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Best part? Being able to do what I love and get paid to do it! I get to support the brightest students in Canadian universities to build volunteer-driven social enterprises that help thousands academically which raises $10,000 to $100,000 in one-year.
Most challenging part? The constant struggle of trying to do more with less. Great opportunities are right in front of us, but are often lacking the resources to fully embrace them.
Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
In five years, hopefully Students Offering Support can become fully integrated into the university fabric from coast to coast. In five years, we should also have established ourselves in the US with a strong presence. Our development work will continue to grow as we establish and grow relationships with our partnering NGO’s and communities. In five years, we will be raising over $1,000,000 a year from Exam-AID review sessions and support more than 50 development projects and trips a year!
What does success look like to you?
Seeing pictures and hearing stories of the children and community members using the classrooms, community centers, latrines, and sustainable gardens funded by SOS volunteers.
Just as special: Reading feedback comments from hundreds of students who have gained understanding, clarity, and a ton of confidence as they head into the final stretch before their exam!
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I think the most memorable milestone was back in 2007 – the year we were able to complete SOS’s full model, ‘360 degrees of volunteerism’. It was in my fourth year at WLU and after two years of growing the organization, we were finally able to not just fund development projects, but build them! We collaborated with the community of Calla Creek and our partnering NGO ProBelize to devise, plan, and ultimately be part of the project build alongside 19 WLU’ers on a two-week trip (Perfect trip except our evacuation from Hurricane Dean (see The Star article!).
In that one year, we raised $65,000 teaching 1000+ WLU students and had the experience of seeing those funds used by our own eyes that summer. At this point, I knew I wanted to provide other students with a similar experience at their school. This was the beginning of the national entity, Students Offering Support, launched when I graduated in 2008.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Work hard, play hard, and engage in real conversations. It’s the best time of our lives – able to throw everything we have at developing a career, still being young to enjoy weekend getaways to Montreal, and easily connected to lots of wonderful people to learn from and grow with.
What is Notable to you?
People putting others before themselves.
How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
Personally: Hockey, Frisbee, and keeping close to my close friends.
Professionally: Staying smitten with the ‘SOS experience’ by taking annual trips to further relationships with our partnering NGO’s and communities while continuing to teach Exam-AID’s on different campuses across Canada.