HAYWARD -- When high school student Omkar Salpekar volunteered at Glassbrook Elementary School last year, he started thinking of ways to get the students more involved in school activities.
On Friday, the Moreau Catholic High School sophomore led an after-school workshop where elementary- and middle-school students built model bridges. He found the place for the event, got others to help him and secured a grant to buy supplies, food and prizes.
"Maybe they will think, 'Hey, I'm good at designing and building.' It might be a way for us to get more students in elementary school and middle school interested in engineering and science," Omkar said in interviews spliced between his school work and golfing with the school team.
The 16-year-old's desire to help others and see a project through doesn't surprise his vice principal.
"He's a very responsible young man and really involved in giving back to his community," said Katie Teekell. "When he finds something he's interested in, he will do what it takes to get it done."
He's done hundreds of hours of community service, well beyond Moreau's required 20 hours a year, she said.
Omkar is on the Hayward Youth Commission, taking the lead compiling a volunteer guide, said Mike Maine, a park district recreation director and one of the panel's advisers.
The teen talked to Maine about holding Friday's workshop at a park district site, and they chose Weekes Community Center. "He pretty much did the whole thing; I just booked the facility," Maine said. "He recruited his fellow commissioners and fellow students to come in and assist."
Omkar gathered household supplies, including paper, paper plates, duct tape, paper cups and paper bowls, as the bridge-building materials.
"We're going to give the students materials, then break them up into small groups, and ask them to design and build the longest bridge they can using those materials," he said. "I will be providing a few designs just to get them thinking."
A Youth Services America campaign encouraging teens to organize community benefit events this weekend included links to supporting grants. Omkar asked City Councilman Francisco Zermeno to look over his application before successfully submitting it for a $500 award. The councilman, a Hayward Youth Commission adviser, will be at the workshop.
"Omkar is an impressive young man," Zermeno said. "He wants me to talk to the students about the importance of giving back to the community, just like he is doing."
The teen has put in almost 400 hours volunteering, tutoring, helping out at the Masonic Home for the Elderly in Union City, as a camp counselor and helping build a schoolhouse in Costa Rica. He's on the robotics team at his school, where he started a Quiz Bowl team his freshman year, Teekell said.
"Under his leadership, the team has gone to nationals for the past two years," she said. "Omkar's been the driving force."
Omkar began volunteering because it was a school requirement.
"But I started to enjoy it, and people appreciated what I was doing. I started doing it a lot," he said.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr.