President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA)

Compass is an approved Certifying Organization (CO) for the President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA). The PVSA is a prestigious national honor offered in recognition of volunteer commitment. Established in 2003, this award honors individuals and groups who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to volunteer service over the course of 12 months. Service hours can be accumulated on a variety of projects throughout the year.

The PVSA is awarded annually at the Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels. For many, earning one or more awards will be a noteworthy honor on future college or scholarship applications.

Volunteer Levels

Volunteer Scholars

Beginning in 2024, Compass will work with its affiliate organization, Volunteer Scholars, to manage applications and submissions for both the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the American Citizenship Award. Compass students and other homeschooled students from the northern Virginia area will be invited to set up secure, online portals to track their progress towards earning these awards subject to the following Program Requirements:

Eligibility through Compass
Compass Students

Compass students will receive a discount code which gives them membership in Volunteer Scholars at no cost. Compass will pay for all costs associated with the award.

A Compass students is defined as a one who was enrolled in at least one Compass class in the previous school year and at least Quarter 1 or Semester 1 of the upcoming school year, as measured by the August 31 cut-off for the PVSA award year.

Homeschooled Students from Northern Virginia Area

Homeschooled students in northern Virginia (Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington, Stafford, and Faquier counties, or Alexandria, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park citities) who do not attend Compass may still earn the PVSA award through Compass.

Compass will pay for all costs associated with the award, but all non-Compass homeschooled students must pay a $25.00 Compass activity fee. Once signed-up with activity fee paid, these students will receive a discount code which gives them membership in Volunteer Scholars at no additional cost.

Homeschooled Status

PVSA candidates certified by Compass must be homeschooled students for the award year that the volunteer work was performed (September 1 through August 31) and at least the term when the award is presented (late October). All candidates will be asked to submit their county’s homeschool acknowledgement letter (not NOI) demonstrating homeschool status for both years.

If a student was homeschooled and performed community service during the award year, but then enrolls in school, he/she is not eligible to received the award through Compass and should ask his/her new school to serve as the certifying agency or purchase a membership in Volunteer Scholars.

All Other Students (Non-Homeschooled, Other Areas)

Students from any other educational setting (public, private, parochial, virtual, hybrid, community college, etc) or homeschooled students from any area outside of northern Virginia cannot earn this award through Compass, but may instead earn it through Volunteer Scholars.


Homeschooled students ages 6 through 18 can earn this award. A student must be age 6 by August 31 (in other words, the student may have completed some activities while 5 years old, but must turn 6 by the end of the award cycle). A student cannot turn 19 before March 1 of the award year (in other words, the student was 18 for at least 6 months and 1 day, or “more than half”, of the award year.)

Adults ages 18+ may earn this award through Volunteer Scholars .


Volunteers must be US citizens or lawfully admitted permanent residents of the US to earn the PVSA award.

Required Award Ceremony

An awards ceremony will be held at 4:00 pm on the fourth Wednesday afternoon in October each year for the recipients of the prior year’s awards. Attendance at the award ceremony is mandatory for Compass students and northern Virginia area homeschooled students. Attendance shall be a condition of receiving your award. Check the date and plan for it in your schedule if you are applying for an award. Awards will not be given to students who do not show up for the ceremony regardless of reason.

Getting Started

Register to Begin
Eligible Compass students or northern Virginia homeschooled students who wish to earn the PVSA award must first sign up through Compass to receive a one-time discount code to join Volunteer Scholars, a Compass affiliate program where volunteers will track their hours through on online portal. This will let us know who is working on the awards when we send out important announcements and reminders. Compass students should sign up HERE. Non-Compass homeschooled students who do not attend Compass should sign up HERE.

Award Type

Volunteers will receive a Bronze, Silver, or Gold PVSA award based on the number of hours they complete for their age group. (See chart). Compass will review and certify all hours, verify all documentation submitted through Volunteer Scholars, order and pay for all awards. Compass will furnish the Medallion Package (customized parchment certificate, letter from the President, and a medal on neck ribbon) for all recipients. Companion lapel pins and coins are available for purchase through Volunteer Scholars

Award Year

The Compass award year extends from September 1 through August 31 each year. All community service work must be entered and submitted in the online Volunteer Activity Log in your Volunteer Scholars account by 11:59 pm on August 31, no exceptions. Hours entered after than time cannot be counted for the closing year, nor can they be carried forward to the next year.

Volunteers who decide to pursue the award mid-cycle can record hours back to September 1 of the award year, even if they had not signed up at that time.

Aging Up a Level Mid-Year

PVSA has different award levels by age with increasing expectations as volunteers get older. There is a change in required hours between ages 10 and 11 (kids to teen) and between ages 15 and 16 (teen to young adult). For example, a 10-year-old needs to complete only 50 hours for a Silver Award, but an 11-year-old is expected to complete 75 hours for Silver.

If a volunteer is the younger age for more than a half of the award cycle, his/her hours will be submitted at the lower age. In other words, if a student turns 11 (or 16) after March 1, he/she will be counted as age 10 (or 15) for the award year. If a student turns 11 (or 16) on or before March 1, he/she will be counted as the older age for the award year. The Compass administrator will make confirm the age group and birthdates of those turning 11 or 16 in the award year during review.

Tracking Volunteer Hours
Volunteer Scholars Portal

All community service activities and hours must be entered in the Volunteer Scholars system. Compass will no longer accept the former fillable pdf log or any other electronic or hard copy formats such as Google Sheets, Excel, faxed, photographed, scanned, or handwritten copies of the log.

Itemized Details

Volunteer hours worked must be entered in the Volunteer Activity Log in discrete entries noting the date worked, hours worked, activity description, and beneficiary organization.
As an example, instead of entering “12 hours- Boy Scouts”, our reviewers must be able to see specifics like:
– March 3, 2019,  Park Clean-Up,  Boy Scouts,  3.0 hours.
– April 4, 2019,  Canned Food Collection,  Reston Food Bank,  4.0 hours
– May 5, 2019,  Built Birdhouses,  Meadowlark Gardens,  5.0 hours

Back-up Documentation

Volunteers must submit back-up documentation demonstrating that they have completed the hours they reported on their Volunteer Activity Logs. Forms of accepted back-up documentation include:

  • Letter or email* from organizer/supervisor at the beneficiary organization
  • Letter or email* from the adult organizer of the volunteer work, such as Honor Society advisor, scout leaders, guidance counselor, etc.
  • Time-tracking report from the beneficiary organization.
  • Certificate or “thank you” from an organization for your work
  • For self-organized work only: photographs of you performing the work or letter/email from the beneficiary
  • Documentation must be submitted as pdf or jpg attachments to entries in the Volunteer Scholars online portal.
  • For back-up documentation, such as a letter, that confirms hours completed over a range of dates, the volunteer should upload this to the latest date in the series.
  • Note: *Emails documenting work should be sent to the volunteer and printed as a pdf for attachment. Do not send individual emails to Compass or Volunteer Scholars.
Review/Acceptance of Hours

Compass will review all community service hour entries and maintains the right to contact beneficiary organizations to verify volunteer work completed. Compass may reject any entries that are incorrectly documented, unsubstantiated, or that are of an excluded type of participation.

What Counts as Volunteer Service?
Types of Commuity Service

Volunteers may perform any type of community service that they wish. Major service categories suggested by PVSA include: education, healthy futures, environmental stewardship, veterans and military families, economic opportunity, disaster services, and more.

Self-Organized Work

Community service work does not need to be done through an organization or established program. Self-initiated service work such as an individual’s or family’s commitment to cleaning up a park or stream, can be counted for this award. Compass may ask for additional details or documentation on self-initiated projects.

Teaching Assistants/Junior Coaches/Counselor in Training (Dance, Martial Arts, Camps, etc.)

A student who serves as a junior or assistant instructor, coach, or camp counselor may be able to count time spent teaching classes to younger students, even if the studio/camp/sports organization is a for-profit business if there is no in-kind compensation. The student coach/teaching assistant/counselor must not receive any benefits such as free or reduced tuition/class fees, belt testing, or other no-cost benefits. Any student who submits volunteer instructor/coach hours of this type as volunteer work must also submit a letter from the studio/camp signed by the owner or head coach stating that the volunteer did not receive any of the benefits list above or similar in exchange for his/her volunteer work.

Double Dipping/Double Counting Service Hours

Community service hours counted towards the PVSA do not need to be uniquely earned for this award. Hours completed through or required by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Eta Sigma Alpha, church, or similar civic or community initiatives, may be applied towards a PVSA award, even if they are performed towards earning another award or recognition.

What Does Not Count as Volunteer Service?
Unpaid Student Work

Not all unpaid, or volunteer, student work can be counted as community service work. Unpaid work in a for-profit place of business, such as a law office or medical practice, is considered an internship experience and shall not count as volunteer work because the student’s effort would benefit a business rather than a charitable effort.

Work at a for-profit hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home.

An exception to the for-profit business rule is student work at a hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Some of these facilities operate as for-profit businesses and/or franchises because of the complexity of the healtcare system. Work at these for-profit facilities can be counted because of the substantial benefit to patients and residents.

Participation/Leadership in a Student Club/Organization

A student’s attendance at regular meetings, participation in events, or even a leadership role in a club, sport, activity, or organizations that he/she is a member of is part of being a member of that organization and does not count as volunteer hours. Being captain of the debate team, social chair for Beta Club, serving on student council, captain of the hockey team, etc, are noteworthy examples of student leadership, but are not, however, community service. Service projects or charitable work done through one of these organizations, such as a youth group visit to a nursing home or Boy Scouts cleaning up a park, can be counted.

School Events and Activities

A student’s contributions in and around his/her own school/co-op are generally not considered volunteer work. Activities such as decorating for spirit week, setting up for prom, helping at graduation, giving tours, or clean-up after an event may be performed on a voluntary basis, but are done so as member of that school/co-op and therefore not counted as volunteer work.

Work for Family and Friends

Unpaid work for family or friends is usually not counted as volunteer work. Mowing the lawn for your parents, babysitting for a family member, or washing a car for your grandparents is considered a contribution to your own family and not volunteer work that benefits the community. Work in the family’s business is not usually considered volunteer work. Tutoing your friend in geometry or teaching your neighbor’s child soccer is considered the normal interactions of a friend/neighbor. If you believe that there should be an exception for your activity, contact the Compass awards administrator.

  • A Boy Scout who spends 6 hours selling popcorn to raise money for his pack/den would not count as volunteer work.
  • A Girl Scout who spends 12 hours selling cookies to raise money for her troop would not count as volunteer work.
  • High school students who organize and host a camp or clinic (dance, sports, STEM, etc) to raise funds for their organization would not count as volunteer work, even if the participants were younger students.
  • Member of National Honor Society who spend 2 hours selling pizza slices to raise money for their program would not count as volunteer work.
  • Band members who hold a bake sale to raise money for travel to an out-of-town competition would not count as volunteer work

However, a student who spends time on a fundraising event that benefits an outside community organization generally can count as volunteer work. Examples include:

  • Beta club members who host a lemonade stand to raise money for the local animal shelter can count their hours worked.
  • Members of the women’s soccer team host a car wash to raise funds for the cancer society can count their hours worked.
Religious Instruction, Worship Service

Performing religious instruction, conducting a worship service, and proselytizing shall not count as volunteer hours. For example, volunteering as Sunday school or religious education assistant or work as an alter boy may not be counted. Community service done through a place of worship such as food drives, meals for the homeless, soup kitchens, clothing collections, etc., can be counted.

Fostering Animals

Activities related to the direct care and keeping of foster animals, such as feeding, watering, bathing, exercising, grooming, accompanying to vet appointments, or cleaning up after the animal can count toward the PVSA award. Activities related to adoption services for foster animals, such as creating promotions or working at adoption events, can be counted. However, if the applicant is sheltering a foster animal(s) at home, he/she cannot count ALL hours that the animal is sheltered or housed as volunteer time. For example, fostering an animal for 7 days does not yield 168 hours of volunteer time because not all hours of the day are devoted to the care and keeping of the animal.

Live-In Exchange Student

Activities and interactions with an exchange student who is living in your home is not considered volunteer work. Eating, running errands, taking trips, going on outings, and doing ordinary activities of daily life when accompanied by an exchange student does not transform such activities into a volunteer role (since you would likely be doing these things anyway, without an exchange student.) However, planning and staffinf a special event, such as a picnic, for a group of exchange students can be counted.

Paid Work

Volunteers must not receive any compensation or stipend for the community service hours.

Commute Time

Students may not count their time commuting to or from a volunteer position or event as part of their volunteer hours.

Marches, Rallies, Protests

Participation in marches, rallies, or protests shall not count as volunteer hours.

Court-Ordered Service

Volunteer service mandated by a court cannot be counted.

Monetary/In-Kind Donations

Monetary or in-kind donations to an organization do not have a volunteer hour equivalency and cannot be counted.

Unused/Rollover Hours

Volunteer hours must be completed in the 12 month award period. Unused hours may not be “rolled over” to the next award period. The exception is the Lifetime Achievement Award which is cumulative across multiple years.

For more information or questions on the PVSA, contact the Compass awards administrator at