Volunteering cultivates a happy, healthy and helpful community. That’s according to five Lime Kiln Middle School girls who just advanced to the second round of Verizon’s Innovative App Challenge for developing an app concept called VolunteerMe.

Verizon’s annual Innovative App competition challenges middle and high school students to develop a technology solution to address a need in their local community. The reward is a $5,000 grant for schools to further develop and support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for those who advance from “Best in State” to “Best in Region,” and a $15,000 grant for the eight teams that advance to “Best in Nation,” along with Samsung tablets for all team members.

The team at Lime Kiln in Fulton is now in the running to win “Best in Nation,” and members work with coaches from the Center for Mobile Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Media Lab to bring their app concept, which helps students fulfill required service hours by connecting them with age-appropriate volunteer opportunities of interest, to life.

Apps developed during the first two years of Verizon’s App Challenge have been downloaded more than 26,000 times from the Google Play store.

But the real reward is far greater than the cash grants and tablets the students receive. The long-term dividends this STEM competition delivers are teaching and inspiring young minds that they have the capability to create, not just consume, knowledge. Encouraging innovation from young women and men from all backgrounds, and all economic statuses, teaches them to be inspired, not only by the potential earnings they can make, but by the change they can effect.