For a person whose background includes athletic competition at the collegiate level, a desire to succeed in business, a passion for education and an interest in community service, Krista Clement has landed in what might be described as her “perfect place.”
The Michigan native, who played basketball at the University of Michigan, graduated from there and later earned a master’s degree from St. Louis University, is the founder of Helper Helper, a St. Louis-based app/website that currently is helping college athletic departments connect their student athletes with volunteer opportunities in their communities. Helper Helper also tracks those hours so the universities can build their volunteer programs to make an even stronger impact in those communities.
This year, Helper Helper is playing a major role in a national competition, the NCAA’s TeamWorks Award, which pits participating colleges against one another to see which college’s students can perform the most community service from now until April of this year.
Clement says her experiences in St. Louis played a role in creating the competition. “I grew up in a really small town in Michigan,” says Clement, who, after graduation from Michigan, taught in St. Louis, at the Compton-Drew Investigative Learning Center Middle School, under the Teach for America program.
Her experience teaching students in a low income community, “really opened my eyes to conditions I wasn’t familiar with in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” she says. “I thought those experiences were really meaningful. I wanted more student athletes to make those connections in the communities where they were attending school. I wanted to see if more athletes could get connected to their communities.”
While pursuing dual degrees — master’s degrees in educational leadership and business administration at Saint Louis University in 2013 — Clement was asked, in a business class, to develop an idea and write a business plan for it. She developed the idea of a volunteer competition for student athletes, took it to the NCAA, and the idea of TeamWorks was born.
“Basically schools sign up to participate in the program,” says Clement. “When they sign up, they agree to use Helper Helper to track their community service hours. From now until April 3, participating schools will track their hours through Helper Helper. There is a validation component within the app, so we’ll be able to share all of those results with the NCAA and let them know who is leading the way. So we’re providing the tools for the schools to make this competition possible.”
The platform connects people with opportunities, tracks the hours they complete, and displays the information team by team in a ranking based on hours.
What’s possible for Helper Helper, after the competition ends in April? Says Clement, “there’s a good chance the schools that are participating in the Team Works Award will continue to want to use Helper Helper to track and log their community service hours throughout the entire year, not just duration of the competition.”
And beyond that?
“There are a lot of corporations who have made a push to get their employees involved in the community. So that is something that would be fun outside of this space.”
Clement says there may come a time, down the road, when she returns to education, either as a teacher or, perhaps, a school principal.
For now, she says she’s content being an entrepreneur in a business that combines her passions for competition, community, and education.