Changing the world for the better doesn’t always require a big, bold social movement. Sometimes, all it takes is a teenager with an open heart and a few spare hours to make a difference.
Approximately 55 percent of today’s youth ages 12 to 19 volunteer regularly—close to double the rate of adults—and each year, they serve more than 1.3 billion hours. Whether teens are stocking shelves at a food bank, tutoring younger students after school, or volunteering with social justice organizations, their dedication on a small-scale level contributes to the greater good that impacts us all.
During National Volunteer Month in April, educators and families encourage students to learn why they should find time to volunteer and where they can share your special skills.
The benefits of volunteering
Volunteers donate their time because they are genuinely altruistic—they selflessly care for the well-being of those around them and want to improve the communities they love. But that doesn’t mean you won’t experience a few advantages of your own when you make time to serve:
In addition, many scholarships reward students based on their volunteer efforts. Youth-led DoSomething.org, for example, has community service campaigns you can jump on locally, and it offers scholarship leads and application tips as well.
Ways to venture into volunteering
The first step to finding the perfect fit is focusing on those causes close to your heart. If you’re an athlete, for instance, consider taking a mentorship role at a sports camp for at-risk youth. Love drawing and painting? Join a community organization that beautifies local neighborhoods through murals, or speak with a local museum about volunteering on family program days.
Because volunteering can be a great way to jump-start your future career, look for opportunities that align with your professional and personal interests. If you love animals but also have a talent for graphic design, see if your local shelter needs help on its marketing and fundraising committee. However, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty either! If you can step away from the shelter’s computer and join others in cleaning the dog kennels, your actions demonstrate your commitment to teamwork and allow you to build a community with other like-minded teens.
Finally, consider how often you can volunteer. Even if your extracurriculars prohibit you from volunteering weekly, seize on one-day opportunities, such as a local blood drive or a clean-up day at an area park. Additionally, because you’re already learning virtually as an ALVS student, consider bringing your volunteerism online. VolunteerMatch, for instance, has thousands of virtual opportunities you can do anywhere in the world, including making care bags and blankets for children in foster care and assisting people who have visual impairments with everyday tasks.
Now more than ever, nonprofits are looking for smart, talented teens to help them fulfill their missions. By spending just a few hours a month serving others, you not only set a foundation for your own future, but you’ll also join your peers in making a collective impact that improves the lives of millions around the world.