Sophie Pressly

Sophie Pressly takes a moment to relax Monday at Gathering Grounds. The Salida High School junior has been busy organizing a student volunteer program that benefits local nonprofits, students and needy children.

While volunteering for local non-profits The Alliance and The Grainery, Salida High School junior Sophie Pressly noticed something: Very few high school students in the area were volunteering.

In an effort to increase student presence at nonprofit organizations, Pressly came up with a program she calls the Heart of the Community Christmas Drive.

The program asks students to find sponsors who will donate a certain amount of money for each hour the student volunteers at a nonprofit.

The student then documents the time spent volunteering.

About 27 participating students are currently volunteering at a number of local nonprofits, including The Grainery, Salida Boys & Girls Club, Guidestone Colorado, A Church, Caring & Sharing, Full Circle Restorative Justice, Family & Youth Initiatives, Holiday Park, Ark Valley Helping Hands, Articipate, Colorado Farm to Table, Salida Mountain Trails and Ark-Valley Humane Society.

On Dec. 16 students will be asked to turn in the number of hours worked and the donations they have earned from sponsors.

The donations will be used to buy Christmas presents for children in need.

Participants are also competing for two $500 scholarships. One scholarship will be for the most money raised and the other for the most volunteer hours served.

Pressly, who plans to pursue a medical career as a surgeon, said she hopes to repeat the program next year with more community awareness and to pass it on to an underclassman when she graduates in 2021 so that it will continue.

She said although she can’t benefit from the scholarships, she is glad to help increase community service and volunteers, and she gets satisfaction from helping the community.

“I get to do more volunteering at organizations that need help. I’m glad to be involved,” she said.

Sponsors are still being accepted to donate for volunteer hours. For information on how to get involved, email Pressly at

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