- Family and Parenting
Volunteering Gives Valuable Gifts to Teens
Teen volunteers have a much different outlook on life than those teens that don't volunteer. In sharing themselves with others, they inevitably benefit immensely from those that they help. It is a very good habit for a teen to start, and the younger, the better. In my work as a Director of a Career Center in a local high school, many students dropped by, looking for paying jobs. There isn't much in Connecticut in the way of paying jobs for teens that are 15 or younger. Some came and asked if there was a place to volunteer so at least they wouldn't be sitting around wasting their Summer. I admire these young people who are generous with their time, even without getting paid. If they are matched with the right volunteer placement, their lives will be greatly enriched by their experience.
Places To Volunteer
Each community has many places in which teens can volunteer. Some require an adult to accompany the teen for liability reasons during the placement; others are just happy to have a couple of extra hands to share the workload. The following is a list of places for teens to volunteer. Check with these agencies in your community to see if they take teen volunteers:
* Convalescent homes/Rehabilitation Centers
* Local Libraries
* Tourism Centers
* Soup Kitchens
* Horse Farms
* Consignment stores that are run by non-profit agencies
* Daycare Centers
* Family Centers or Neighborhood Agencies
* Catholic Charities
Best Volunteer Matches for Teens
The best match for an individual teen will depend on the area he/ she is interested in as far as a future career, or a hobby. If someone is interested in the medical field, volunteering in a hospital or rehabilitation center is a perfect match to see what it would be like to work in this environment. Someone interested in fashion, learning how to sort and display clothes would be a perfect match for a consignment shop as they can always use help sorting, hanging clothes by size, color, and building attractive displays. If a teen is interested in scrapbooking, a convalescent home is a great place to volunteer to help elderly residents put together scrapbooks and talk about their memories, which in turn helps the elderly person to socialize. If a teen is interested in working with children someday as a teacher, volunteering in a day care center or at a school is a great place to start. It helps them get a better idea of the most comfortable age group for them to work with. Also, teachers can always use the help toward the end of the summer in setting up their classrooms, decorating bulletin boards, etc. If a teen is interested in working with horses, many horse farms will allow teens 14 and older to help out in the barn and teach them how to groom horses and clean stalls. There will usually be a form that needs to be signed by parents in a situation like that, though, for liability purposes.
Valuable Experience for Teens
You might be wondering why a teen would want to volunteer their time for free. The gains that they receive may not be monetary but are invaluable to their futures.
Job Shadow Experience: If a teen volunteers in a place that they may want to work at in the future, the experience will give them great insight into whether or not they could actually work in that particular environment. If a teen thinks they want to be a doctor or nurse, and then during the volunteer experience realize how squeamish they are around blood or needles, they may realize a career in a hospital is not for them. It is much better for them to discover this before entering college and spending thousands of dollars to end up working in an environment in which they are unhappy.
Work Skills for Future Resumes: volunteering gives students the chance to learn skills in the workplace that will be invaluable to them when they turn 16 and apply for a job in the working world. Teens who have cooked at a soup kitchen, or at church suppers, come to a job with valuable cooking skills which would be a plus if applying for a job in a restaurant as a cook. Students who volunteer in a daycare center or school will have skills already working with young children, which would be wonderful when applying for a job in a daycare center, church nursery, after-school or summer camp program. Teens who have worked in an office will have experience copying, filing, delivering mail, answering phones and possible customer service experience which comes in handy if applying for a job in an office as an after-school receptionist, or any business which requires customer service skills.Teens who have worked for a consignment shop have experience already in sorting and pricing clothes, providing customer service, and organizing displays which give them skills if they wanted to work in a retail clothing store.Even teens need resumes and employers are much more likely to hire someone who has experience, paid or unpaid.
College and Scholarship Applications: When filling out both college applications and scholarship applications in the senior year of high school, it helps immensely to have community service, i.e., volunteering, on the application. Society, in general, gives great weight to young people who give unselfishly of their time to help others. Some scholarships are based on community service so those students who have performed any volunteering, on a regular basis, will qualify for more scholarships than those who sit home and watch TV after school and during their summers.
A Teen Volunteer Experience
The following essay includes excerpts from a scholarship essay written by my daughter who recently graduated from high school. I was quite amazed when reading this, and asked her if I could build a hub around her essay because it was so touching. I hadn't realized how much she gained from this experience until I read this essay. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. The names of the center and people have been changed to provide confidentiality.
For the past two summers, I volunteered at a convalescent home. I started out doing simple things like delivering newspapers to patient rooms and helping move patients, to get used to the feel of a convalescent home. Each week I was given more responsibilities and soon started helping with exercise and group activities. I genuinely enjoyed leading group activities because I felt like the residents were having a good time and being active. Even if the most exercise that they actually accomplished was lifting their arms a few centimeters in the air to music, the smiles on their faces let me know they were having fun.
My favorite part was giving manicures to the women residents....there is a seemingly endless supply of nail polish in every color imaginable. I loved being able to go to a residents room to paint their nails and talk to them. Some residents had stories about their grandchildren or their lives when they were younger that I could tell they loved sharing. One especially touching story was Emily's, who explained to me that she had had a stroke. In short, broken sentences she told her story before going to watch her favorite show General Hospital with her best friend, Gretchen. Still, some residents were content to have company and feel pampered; this is especially true of those residents on the third floor.
The third-floor residents are those who have dementia or other conditions that make them relatively low functioning. These residents, although not always fully aware of what is happening, have been known to fall asleep during exercise. But they meet every situation with delightful alacrity and brighten my day every time I see them. The most charismatic of these residents was Maggie. Maggie had a type of dementia which made it hard for her to find the words to express her thoughts. It was often difficult to understand what she was trying to convey. But each week when it was time to give manicures I would always seek out Maggie because she is so sweet, she never cared what color her nails were painted. She was often unaware that she was even having her nails done. Every time that I spent time with Maggie, she would always thank me and repeat “I love you,” in the most appreciative and pleasant way.
I love being a part of a place where the residents and the staff have a genuine connection and care for each other. The residents were not treated like pets who were meant to be taken care of but not allowed to have fun. While volunteering, I gained a lot of experience with taking day trips and leading activities. My favorite trip was when we took a group of residents to a local ice cream restaurant that is famous for its copious fields of sunflowers. All of the residents who came were in wheelchairs, so it was difficult to get them all into and out of the van (it took forty-five minutes for each), as well as to push the chairs on the gravel hills at the farm but worth it when we all enjoyed the day.
I am so glad that I can volunteer at ...( the) convalescent home. I had many new experiences and met many diverse people (including five who were over one hundred years old!). Volunteering (there) was one of the best decisions I ever made. It was not only fulfilling to know that I was making a difference but genuinely enjoyable.
I think this essay sums up more than anything else I could say about how teen volunteering enriches a teenagers life in many ways.
© 2012 Karen Hellier