Why should your teen get involved in doing regular volunteer service in your community? I’ll give you one reason. Your teen needs to feel like a hero. Not every kid can be the popular one, score the winning sports goal, or win the top prize at the science fair, but every kid can do volunteer service.
Usually, the recipients of their efforts recognize that teens have busy lives. Typically, they are very appreciative and enthusiastic when teens show up to help them. That’s what can make a kid feel like a hero.
Why Volunteer Service is so Important for Teens
Besides the emotional benefits, there are tons of other benefits to doing volunteer service for teens. It looks good on their resume for future work opportunities, and it also looks good on their college applications. Plus, many schools have a requirement for annual service hours.
I did a series of “mock interviews” at my son’s High School. Out of the eight High School Seniors I interviewed, at least HALF of them had never done any volunteer service at all. By that age, my sons had done HUNDREDS of hours of volunteer service and other community activities. I’ve done a ton of volunteer service as well and won several Volunteer Service Awards with my employer. That looks AWESOME on a resume and never fails to impress.
This is definitely an area where a potential employer would be impressed with because doing work in your community shows that you are energetic and know how to work, it shows that you are a good person, and it shows that you have the initiative to show up for things. Those are all things that a college recruiter, military recruiter, or potential employer will be on the lookout for.
It might also be a great opportunity for some social interaction. Teens often volunteer in a group or are partnered up with another teens that they may not have had a chance to meet otherwise. This could lead to potential friendships with some great kids that might come from families that have good values and want to encourage their kids to succeed in life. My boys made some good friends in Scouts, church groups, and other similar activities.
PS: Any type of Scouting experience seems to carry extra weight. My youngest son is an Eagle Scout and he always puts that on his resume. At a recent Eagle Scout ceremony in our Troop, one of the grandfathers got up and shared how he started his entire career started because he had put Eagle Scout on his resume and his prospective employer happened to also be an Eagle Scout. Half the interview was sharing Scouting memories, and he not only got the job, but he stayed there for decades and made a great living for himself.
What Types of Volunteer Service are Available for Teens?
That’s the great thing about it. There are literally hundreds of opportunities – both formal and informal. It can be as easy as shoveling snow or raking leaves for an elderly neighbor, or it could be a week-long youth group trip to a blighted area to do more intense activity.
The good thing is that you can tailor the activity to your teens personality and likes and dislikes. A fairly shy teen would welcome something like working with animals at the Humane Society – they always need dog walkers and cat cuddlers. Or something where they are playing with young children at a homeless shelter, or sorting cans at the local Food Bank.
Some teens really enjoy working with disabled children or with elderly people. A child with a musical talent or craft abilities would be in great demand to help out at a nursing home or making blankets or hats for kids in hospitals. I started out at age 12 as a “Candy Striper” – someone who refills water for the patients, or hands out books and magazines and just generally keeps the residents happy.
For the best experience, you want to choose carefully. Help them pick something energetic and upbeat, something suited to their likes and hobbies. Hopefully, you can find something where they will have a chance to work with a group of similar-aged kids. Think telethons, food drive, helping with a breast cancer walk, or a marathon event. A family in our neighborhood baked dozens of cookies to help out a friend pay for cancer treatments – they were MOBBED with requests.
Hosting a yard sale for a good cause, working in a soup kitchen, or children’s hospital can be rewarding. Usually, it ends up being a great experience, but especially for more sensitive kids, some situations might be depressing or emotional. You know your teen, so use your best judgment when suggesting their first opportunities. You want them to have the most positive associations with the work they do, so they will want to continue.
How Can I Find Volunteer Service in my Community
So, how do you go about it? Even if your teen has never done volunteer service, it’s easy to find opportunities just about everywhere.
Not every kid can be the popular one, score the winning sports goal, or win the top prize at the science fair, but every kid can do volunteer service.
Helping as part of their church youth group, Scout Troop, or sports team will give your son or daughter a chance to enjoy serving alongside their friends. That might make them more enthusiastic about giving it a try. Or if they are more outgoing, it might be a chance for them to meet up with a whole new group of kids and maybe have some adventures.
My sons have been to New Orleans to help after the floods, Joplin to help with tornado cleanup, worked haunted houses, food drives, helped with daycares, and worked with kids from Northern Ireland. Those are some amazing experiences they wouldn’t have had otherwise. And they have learned that their lives are pretty cushy compared to other people’s – despite all their complaining about chores. Now, even my grandkids are starting to get involved in their own volunteer service opportunities, which I find very exciting.
If you aren’t affiliated with a church or a Scout Troop in your area, here are some resources to find volunteer service opportunities in your community.
- Volunteers of America – Today, each year Volunteers of America touches the lives of 1.5 million people in over 400 communities in 46 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In fact, in 2019 more than 55,000 volunteers devoted more than one million hours to hundreds of Volunteers of America programs and activities nationwide – and we can always use more volunteers!
- VolunteerMatch.org matches organizations and non-profits with local volunteers for projects in metropolitan areas around the country.
- generationOn.org provides resources that support the development of caring, compassionate and capable kids with campaigns, days of services, clubs and more.
- Idealist.org offers a searchable directory of volunteer opportunities around the globe, including projects for families.
Celebrate your Teen’s Volunteer Service Accomplishments
Afterward, you could take them out for a special meal and let them tell you all about their experience. Every hero loves an appreciative audience. Plus, it’s a good time to start planning their next adventure. Consider making volunteer service a family tradition for the holidays or even several times per year. It’s a great way to forget your own troubles as you help other people.