Like many of you, we believe that today’s youth can play a crucial role in making this world a better place. All we need to do is to find meaningful ways to engage.


Our journey began by tutoring bilingual education to low-income seniors in a local community. After covid struck, we had no way to meet these seniors in person and continue our tutoring sessions. On a whim, we decided to try scheduling one of our classes online through zoom, and surprisingly, it worked. A new idea was born! 


A month later, we created Meaningful Teens, an organization that teaches English to ELL learners, reading and reading comprehension. After some continued outreach, we identified programs who were open to online tutoring, and they soon became thrilled with the results. In turn, there was also demand for our fellow teenagers and college students who wanted to give back. In only a short period, we connected hundreds of local students and beyond with nonprofits from Oakland to all over the country.

Welcome to Meaningful Teens

Why we started 

As teens, we had difficulty finding meaningful ways to serve our community. While we pursued many options, it always took time to engage with the right contact person, and several organizations did not accept volunteer applications for teens under 18 years old. We created Meaningful Teens to help kids our age find volunteering opportunities where they can make a real difference. After all, we are all Meaningful Teens.

Thomas Au (Advisor) I am a principal engineer at Earthlink who has been in the tech industry for 29 years. My passion for social service and philanthropy comes from my background as a Vietnam refugee. My family and I fled communist Vietnam during the Cold War in 1979, taking refuge on an island in Malaysia for a year. After a difficult year in Malaysia, my family was granted asylum in the USA in 1980. Since I was 10, I’ve worked tirelessly, graduating from the University of California, Irvine in 1992 with a degree in computer science. In my youth, I was forced to adapt to a new environment, language, and culture, so I know the hardships these young students are going through. My son and I run the technology behind Meaningful Teens, so we can enable MT students to have the essential one-on-one connections between student and mentor. I became a part of Meaningful Teens, so I can help the next generation of immigrants and refugees reach the American Dream they came here to find.

Donna Grim (Advisor) I am a seasoned educational leader with thirty years of experience fourteen of which were spent teaching grades 4-8 and the rest as an elementary and middle school principal. I am also the principal at a national blue ribbon school. I have a deep passion for fostering educational environments that promote and build upon student's individual strengths.

Karen Preis (Teacher) I retired in 2018 after a thirty-year career in education, spent mostly teaching Spanish to middle school, high school, and community college students.  During seventeen years at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, California, Karen spent eight years as the assistant speech and debate coach.  She won a coach’s award as her speech student took first place in original oratory at the California State Championship.  Karen was awarded the Robert Urban Memorial Award for Service by her peers, having participated as a co-chaperone for student immersion trips to Chile and to the homeless community of San Jose.  Karen finished her career teaching Spanish and French to middle school students at The Harker School in San Jose.  She believes in inspiring her students to be lifelong learners and models this value herself as she continues to tutor Spanish and to take ongoing courses in French, German, and Hebrew.  Karen holds teaching credentials in Spanish and French in California and in Nevada.  Her B.A. in Spanish and her M.S. in Secondary Education are from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Beverley Joukoff (teacher) My forty-five-year passion for teaching can be witnessed as she encourages her students to believe in themselves and to strive to achieve their best. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, with an undergraduate and graduate degree, she started her ten-year career in the Richmond Unified School District where she educated students in High School, Middle School, and Elementary. There, she was recognized for introducing hands-on-learning centers. Joining Mt. Diablo School District in 1996, she taught the John Hopkins’ Success for All reading program at Bel-Air Elementary, and was certified in GLAD and CLAD teaching methods. She was awarded Teacher of the Year for Sequoia Elementary and was nominated for Teacher of the Year for the City of Pleasant Hill. She truly believes that every child can succeed.

Jacob Au (Website Manager & Zoom Coordinator) I am a student attending the University of California San Diego who is passionate about technology and community. I am thrilled to work with Meaningful Teens where I can use my background in computers to help connect eager tutors with young students in need.

Priya Macpherson (Advisor) I am a 5th grade teacher at the Monarch Academy Public Schools and the Deputy Director and Co-Founder of Partnered for Success, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the development of high school foster and orphan youth who are aging out of the foster care system in the Phoenix Valley. I have also worked with Teach for America and fellow corps to incorporate best practices and strategies for students in the classroom. I am passionate about education and believe that every child should be given the chance to succeed.