Ten Ways Teens Can Get Involved in Service this Summer

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 @ 09:56 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

When school stops for the summer, students are all relieved to be free from homework, lectures, assignments, and tests.  It’s time to sleep in, hang out with friends, or travel to the beach.  Summer is generally a fun and relaxing time, but some of this summer free time can be spent engaged in meaningful service.  Get off the couch or computer and be part of the community. Here are a few ways to incorporate service into your summer:

1. Expand on Current Projects: Think of some of the service work you already do, and consider using your extra time to greater your impact. Expand your commitments by signing up for more hours during the week at the library or soup kitchen you volunteer at during the school year.  Use the summer to reflect on your service projects during the year and consider how you can help the nonprofits you work with adapt to changes or expand their outreach. 

2. Try Something New: Always wanted to volunteer somewhere but never had the time during school?  Why not look into a nearby zoo, museum, science center, or visual arts center to see who is looking for volunteers. Sometimes teens have to pass up opportunities that are during school hours, but in the summer you can finally take advantage of some fun opportunities during the day.

Students Volunteering with the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability Summer Program

3. Work at a Summer Camp:  Whether you loved going to summer camp as a kid or dreaded it, you probably remember seeing the teen volunteers helping the counselors. Now you’ve outgrown Day Camp and it’s time to graduate into being one of the “big kids” you once looked up to who refereed dodge ball and set up the finger painting.  Many camps allow teens to start as trainee volunteers and then move up to working as counselors one or two summers later.  You’ll be put in charge of all sorts of activities like sports, crafts, games, and snack time.  You’re sure to find something you enjoy doing.  Look up camp programs at your local community center to see what opportunities are in store. 

4. Host a Service or Donation Event: Incorporate service into you social calendar.  Invite friends to a pool party and ask them to bring canned or dry foods for a local food bank.  Get your crafty pals together to make jewelry to sell or have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to charity.  Convince your family to participate in a beach or river clean up.  Whichever you decide to do, participating in service with friends and family allows you to spend your summer time with those you care about while helping others.

5. Help the Local Animal Shelter: If you love animals, this is a great place to spend your summer. Lend a helping hand in walking, cleaning, and caring for animals without homes.  You’ll want to keep coming back to help your cute furry friends during the summer.

6. Build your Career through Volunteering: Apply to volunteer internships this summer where you can gain professionalism skills and experience.  With so much free time you can donate more hours into learning about fields that interest you.  You’ll build connections and experience in a field you’re interested in, as well as build up your college application by using your summer to learn and grow.

7. Help a Neighbor: Offer to do yard work for a neighbor who is unable to.  Get to work planting some new flowers to brighten their day, clean up the overgrown bushes, and mow the grass.  It may be hot and laborious, but you’ll be using your time to put a smile on someone’s face. 

Tech-Savvy Students Volunteering8. Visit Nursing Homes: Visit the elderly and keep them company by reading books, playing games, or just chatting for a while.  Help host events and activities.  Tech-savvy teens can help someone connect with email or social networking to keep in touch with distant relatives.  Just spending some time with a senior citizen can brighten his or her day and yours too.  You’ll make new friends and hear stories outside the texting and tweeting generation. 


9. Be an Envinronmental Advocate:  The environment, and the damage humans are causing, is a growing concern today.  Do your part to help Mother Earth.  Plant trees and gardens to clean the air.  Learn how to compost to help your new plants thrive.  Connect with local organizations to promote recycling or teach people what can and cannot be recycled at your local plant.  Participate in park clean up events to free local wildlife from litter and pollution.  During the summer we spend more time outside playing sports, going to the beach, hiking, swimming and more, so it’s important to give back to the earth.  To continue enjoying life here on our only planet, it’s vital that we put time and effort into keeping it sustainable, healthy, and clean. 

10. Host a Book Drive:  Not all public schools are funded equally, and cutbacks make matters worse. You may not be thinking about school in the summer, but organizing a book drive will help students when class is back in session. Access to more books means students can improve their literacy, reading comprehension skills, and critical thinking.  Starting in advance means you’ll have more time and collect more books and donations by the time summer is over.

When the summer’s over, you’ll want to have fond memories to look back on.  Knowing that some of your time spent was to benefit others is an extra bonus.  Remember that service should not be boring to you.  This is your personal contribution to others and to a cause you care about, and, since it’s summer, it should also be fun.  Think about what interests you and what you love to do, and then try to share your passion with others to better the world.  Here’s to the summer, and to making it both memorable and meaningful.  

Keep checking NobleHour all summer for local volunteer opportunities.

Topics: service, education, volunteering, k12, nonprofit, summer, summer fun

The Realities of Volunteering Abroad

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Jun 06, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

Volunteering teaches its participants to become more aware of the impact of their actions on the community.  Often when we think of community, we refer to local communities, but volunteering can transcend borders across the global community.  During the summer, many volunteers choose to use their vacation time to help communities in the developing world.  A variety of programs exist to connect volunteers with opportunities abroad, and, though the volunteers have the best intentions, these efforts can sometimes be misguided.  To truly make an impact on a community, volunteers should pay close attention to how their actions will negatively or positively affect a community. 

Students Volunteering on the Beach

The benefits of volunteering abroad are almost self-explanatory at face value.  Volunteers gain a global perspective, visit a new part of the world, immerse themselves in a different culture and language, all the while engaging in service and helping developing areas.  It’s easy to see how volunteers would be sold on the idea of going overseas, and it is possible to make a positive impact - just not as easily as it seems.  What some don’t foresee is that one simply can’t just fly off and try to change a community.  It takes careful planning, time, and a real understanding of the current situation in a community before one can attempt to help it.  Before quickly selecting a volunteer program this summer, it’s vital to have a full understanding of how going abroad could have inadvertent negative results and how to avoid these by engaging in meaningful and impactful service projects. 

It’s important to note that many would criticize volunteering abroad because of the lack of sustainability resulting from a long-distance project.  There is a careful balance between helping a community get through the day, or empowering it so that one day it can be self-sufficient.  It’s the difference between bringing food to last a few weeks and helping a community rebuild its irrigation system so it can grow and sell its own food for generations to come.  The latter makes for a service-learning project that is sustainable because both parties are benefiting.  When looking for service opportunities abroad, volunteers should do proper research to ensure that the impact of their service will empower a community by helping lift it from poverty or hardship permanently, rather than temporarily alleviating some of the stress on the community. 

“The harsh truth is that ‘voluntourism’ is more about the self-fulfilment of westerners than the needs of developing nations.” - Ian Birrel, columnist and foreign correspondent.

Student volunteering abroad on the beach.Critics would also challenge the amount of money being put into volunteerism abroad.  With the hundreds and thousands of dollars people spend for their travel and accommodations while volunteering, many warn against “the dark side of our desire to help the developing world” as put by Ian Birrel in his article “Before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do”.  Birrel warns that “orphanages are a booming business trading on guilt [. . .] Those ‘orphans’ might have been bought from impoverished parents [. . . ]An official study found just a quarter of children in these so-called orphanages have actually lost both parents. And these private ventures are proliferating fast.”  The trouble with so many more tourists wanting to enrich their vacations with volunteering is that it becomes a disturbing industry where locals can profit on Westerners’ consciences.  Thousands of organizations encourage people to volunteer with their organization, but often these short excursions do more harm for local communities in the developing world. They take away jobs from skilled locals and give them to volunteers who will pay to work there.  Often the money spent by volunteers to travel abroad would be better used cultivating new industries and building infrastructure to help developing nations grow, rather than keeping them dependent on the developed world.

To avoid these misguided volunteering ventures, be sure to preform in-depth research on the program before hand.  Consider how impactful you want your volunteering to be.  Is the program allowing you to be proactive in the planning and orchestration of the project?  Will the local community truly benefit for years to come? Are you learning new skills, and are the native people learning new skills that will help them help themselves?  What does the developing community already have that can help them, and what do they need to improve their lives? These are challenging questions, and oftentimes it’s easier for one to continue helping in one's own community rather than one abroad. 

Both at home and abroad, volunteers are meant to fill in the missing pieces in a community, not supplement what it can do by itself.  The end result should be giving a foreign community the ability to help itself rather than keeping it dependent on aid from the developed world.  Volunteers should strive to bring the resources and skills that combat the issues hindering a community’s ability to prosper and live better quality lives.  Eventually volunteers have to return home, but the communities they visit and the lives they attempt to touch will remain.  Before they leave, their actions should echo in the lasting improvements helped to achieve.  This summer, continue to track your Noble Impact on NobleHour both at home and abroad. 

Topics: service learning, service, education, volunteering, experience, highered, abroad

5 Ways Student Volunteering Can Help Your Job Search

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

It’s college graduation season, and many recent grads are contemplating what they will do next.  For some that means continuing with graduate school, but for many it means taking everything learned in the past four years and using it to pursue a career.  Regardless, this is a time full of decisions seemingly greater in importance than those made four years ago when graduating from high school.  Graduates are faced with finding jobs, managing thousands of dollars in student loans, finding a house or apartment to move out from your parent’s house, and starting a life after college.  The first step in most of this is finding a job to support yourself, but for many graduates it helps to have a resume built on a valuable, well-rounded experience in addition to a college degree. 

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Going to college should not just be listening to lectures and studying; it should be an experience where students gain the skills and experience they will need for life after graduation.  One way to gain experience is through volunteerism.  Even before college, many students begin volunteering to meet a graduation requirement, apply to an award or scholarship program, or to build their college applications.  However, volunteering does not end here, and most students who volunteer in high school continue to do so in college.  This is because volunteering is both rewarding and beneficial. 

Here are a few ways volunteering can help current students, graduates and job-seekers alike:

1. Improve as a person: Volunteering doesn’t have to be just about pursuing a career.  Volunteers also make friends, become more outgoing, and learn to appreciate the things they have and the people they care about.  Many volunteers just want to make a difference and feel good that they contributed to the community.  According to the United States Department of Labor, 42.2% of college graduates over the age of 25 volunteered, and that number is slowly rising. While many volunteers start out with a specific goal in mind, most will find volunteerism rewarding and valuable and, for this reason, continue to be engaged in their communities with it beyond graduation. 

2. Become a well-rounded individual: Volunteerism can help boost a resume for graduates seeking to build their experience in their chosen field.  For job-seeking graduates, a history of volunteerism shows employers that you are well rounded and involved in the community.  Being able to say you built houses with Habitat for Humanity or helped with disaster relief efforts says that you are concerned with something beyond yourself.  It demonstrates a sense of initiative that cannot be seen in simply listing a university name and degree. 

3. Earn experience and skills: Volunteering creates a host of experiences you can talk about in interviews.  Many graduates are just starting out and have little experience, but being able to talk about volunteer experiences can improve your chances and prove that you will make a valuable employee.  Countless applicants can talk about the courses they took and things they learned in university, but potential employers already have that knowledge and experiences.  Some important skills you’ll pick up by volunteering include teamwork, empathy, communication, commitment and leadership; all of which are qualities employers look for and experiences you can share during an interview.  Whatever your volunteer experience was, your story and background will stand out. 

4. Jumpstart your career: Sometimes it’s easier to find work experience pertaining to your career in the form of a volunteer opportunity than a part time position you can maintain while studying.  Do a little searching or contact the career center at your university to find out about volunteer or internship programs that will jumpstart you in developing your skillset for your career.  You’ll also develop contacts in your field that may be able to help you find a job later when you graduate or can serve as valuable references when you apply to other companies. 

5. Contribute to something you are passionate about: Perhaps you were strayed away from less “profitable” degrees in your college search by your parents or teachers and asked to pursue other interests and talents.  There’s still a chance to keep in touch with the things you enjoy doing.  Volunteering doesn’t have to be a chore like studying and attending class; it should be connected to a cause that interests you.  When looking for volunteer opportunities near you, find something you’ll enjoy and commit to. 

Congratulations to the class of 2013!  Make sure to become a NobleHour citizen to begin measuring the number of hours and the impact of your service work.  Use this to show employers the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to a cause that’s important to you, and then share how your story impacted the community and makes you stand out as a recent graduate. Track your Noble Impact here on NobleHour and see how it will enhance your life after graduation. 

Topics: service, education, millenials, volunteering, job search, graduates, experience, resume, highered

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