If it weren't for a reality check from his parents, Matthew Mar, a 15-year-old junior at Lake Travis High School, would have given all the money he earned at his summer internship away.
This year is a big year. He'll be turning 16 in October and getting his driver's license and will need money for car insurance and gas.
"My parents wanted me to become more independent," he says about why he needed to get a summer job, as well as why he needed to budget for expenses.
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Matthew worked about 30 hours a week in an internship at Aceable, an Austin-based online driver's education app. He worked in quality control, helping to do some coding for the app as well as test the app. To get the job, he had to evaluate the app and make suggestions about how to improve it.
It was his first business presentation. He found out about the internship from his father, Derrick Mar, who works at Aceable.
With his parents' help, Matthew figured out how much he could afford to donate versus save. In the end, he donated half of his earnings, $920, to Helping Hand Home, an organization that provides foster care and adoption services as well as residential treatment for kids who have experienced trauma and neglect.
"I truly believe in helping children less fortunate than I am," he says. He didn't know about the organization before he started researching where he wanted his donation to go.
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He hopes it's not his only opportunity to help the organization, he says. Matthew is too young to volunteer by himself at Helping Hand Home — the age requirement is 18 — but he's thinking about volunteering with his parents or organizing a fundraiser or volunteer trip with his school.
Matthew has experience working in orphanages. Every summer his family takes a trip abroad to do volunteer work. He estimates he's been to 50 countries. He's distributed food at an orphanage in Vietnam, taught English at a school in Cambodia and spent three days volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal.
That trip to Nepal was two years ago and was part of an organized trip for teen volunteers that he took without his parents. It proved a memorable visit. "I gave one Oreo to each of the children. They split them in half and saved the other half for later, and they nibbled on one half. They savored every little bit of it, and now every time I take a bite (of an Oreo), I remember these kids who appreciate every little bit. It makes me more appreciative of what I have."
The kids, he says, slept in bunks or on the floor. They walked almost a mile to get to their school. They didn't have access to hot water, so when they brought instant noodles as their lunch, they would eat it like chips.
"Everything that I've done has taught me that giving is important," he says. "It creates meaning. ... It's touching knowing the extent it has impact on someone's life, a human's life. Giving is always about the people who receive."
Locally, Matthew volunteers with Thundering Paws animal rescue and LT Thunder Special Olympics Swim Team. A swimmer, Matthew gets into the water with the kids to make sure they are safe as well as teach them.
"Regardless of your age, you're never too young or too old to make an impact, whether it's time or money," he says.
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Matthew plans on a career in medicine, either as a physician or a researcher, he says.