It was John F. Kennedy who may have most famously asked America’s young people to examine what they can do for their country. Many years later Americans are still answering the call to service and volunteerism, especially America’s teens and young people, as more than half of American teenagers and young adults volunteered last year.
Giving back is valuable not only for your local community but also because it will broaden your child’s perspective and maybe even instill a greater sense of responsibility at school and at home. And if those benefits aren’t reason enough, volunteer experience is a crucial component to meet today’s college admission criteria. A recent study even revealed that college admissions officers at more than half of the nation’s top 50 schools ranked community service as the fourth-most-important factor in an application, above reference letters, interviews and legacy status.
Here are a few tips for helping your child or teen become a youth volunteer:
Start Simply: Finding the right opportunity and organizational match is no longer a perilous prospect; sites like All for Good, VolunteerMatch and DoSomething.org match teens up with the perfect organization based on their interests and availability.
Earn Some Credit: Literally. Many high schools now offer course credit for hands-on learning through service to the community. Talk to your school’s counselor to see what’s available.
Expand Your Skills: From gaining an eyeful into the ins and outs of fundraising to building houses beam by beam, these hands-on experiences teach lessons beyond what the classroom can provide.
Learn What You Love: Identifying passions (and equally important, dislikes) early in life can help your young person blaze a trail toward his or her future career.
Impress an Officer: A college officer, that is. Students’ involvement in volunteering has become an increasingly important factor in college acceptance and an activity that speaks to the value and investment that students could potential bring to their future campus.
Find the Right Fit: From the pet lover to the naturalist, there are opportunities that fit all passions and interests. There’s often also flexibility in scheduling and requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to youth volunteering, which makes it all the more exciting!
Share Your Talents: It’s an old adage, but everyone is good at something and has a unique talent or skill to bring to the table. Helping your teens understand what those abilities are could get them excited about sharing them.
Make the Connection: Working toward a common goal is one of the fastest ways to unite groups of all types of different people. The sense of community and camaraderie gained through being part of a team is powerful and contagious.