I’ve heard it time and time again from my children and their friends, ‘I don’t have any time to volunteer.’ What that usually translates to is, ‘You want me to work for free? Not a chance!’ While I understand the hesitation to give up one’s personal time without any immediate tangible benefit, what many teenagers fail to understand is that volunteerism is a gateway to a plethora of ‘real’ perks. And, with many schools now requiring students to volunteer as part of their graduation requirement, it’s something they should embrace. Here’s just a few of the many benefits students can receive through volunteering in their community.
1. Increase Your Social Skills
For students who are shy or have a difficult time making friends, volunteering provides an open, nurturing environment where people from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds work together toward a common goal. Students may have the opportunity to work with people with special needs, the elderly, and also learn how to work on projects as a member of a team. These skills will come in handy, especially when starting college and learning how to live with a roommate, or working on a group project.
2. Enhance Your Resume
Many volunteer activities involve working in an office environment. Students may have the opportunity to gain new skills, such as using Adobe Illustrator, creating spreadsheets or project timelines, managing budgets, and more! Both the time spent volunteering and the skills learned during the experience should be included on your resume, as they increase your value as a potential employee for any business.
3. Research Potential Careers/Majors
Are you still undecided on your college major or career path in life? Volunteering is a great way to test the waters for any area you may be interested in exploring. If you think you may like working with animals, check out your local animal shelter, veterinary hospital, or zoo. If education is on your list of potential majors, try volunteering with a daycare, tutor lab, or local school. By spending a little time in a real-world environment, you’ll get a better sense of which careers may be best for you.
Volunteering is a great way to network. Many times, you’ll have the opportunity to work with executive directors, board members, and other high-level officials in organizations and companies while completing your volunteer duties. Spend this time wisely, putting forth your best effort and inquiring about future opportunities, as it may pay off later. When it comes time to submit letters of recommendation for your college admission application and scholarships, don’t hesitate to reach out to these contacts for help. Also, when you start looking for a job, they may be able to provide a helping hand in getting your foot in the door or landing an interview.
5. Free Money for College
One of the best ways to increase your access to college scholarships is through volunteer work. Many nonprofit and civic groups provide scholarships to those who volunteer through their organizations. Also, many scholarship providers require a certain amount of volunteer hours to be eligible for their awards. When there are students with similar academic backgrounds competing for a scholarship, volunteer service can often be the deciding factor.
Don’t think of volunteering as working for free; think of it as an investment in your future. The time you spend helping others can ultimately lead to both personal and financial rewards for you. To learn more about volunteer opportunities in your area, go online to VolunteerMatch.org, Serve.gov, or contact your local United Way.
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