I don't want my kid to volunteer...she should be studying!

A few years ago, I was chatting with a family about their student's 'brag sheet' or 'resumé'. When I asked whether the student had participated in any volunteer activities, the mother shot back, "You know, I don't understand why everyone thinks volunteering is so important....we never got any help from anyone. Everything I have I worked hard for, on my own, with no help from anyone, no real help, even from my ex. Why can't everyone just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?"

A hard question from a tough, world-weary Mom. It turns out the student did, in fact, volunteer at the public high school as a TA, in one of the many CTE (http://www.careertech.org/cte) classes offered. The time this teenager spent at school helping other students understand course content was beneficial in many ways.  The teacher got a helping hand in an impacted classroom. By volunteering, the student had a chance to delve deeper into the topic and to explore what working in that career would be like. The volunteer also received a great letter of recommendation from her teacher for the college application. A win-win, IMHO.

Over half of teens in the US volunteer contributing more than 1 billion hours of community service annually. Almost 2/3 of those teen volunteers are 'regulars' meaning they volunteer at least 12 weeks per year. They volunteer primarily through religious, school or youth organizations.

There are so many reasons for students to volunteer:

Here are a few reasons from a "Top Ten" list published by UCSD:

  • Make a difference
  • Encourages civic responsibility
  • Teaches the importance of giving back
  • Learn a lot
  • Strengthens the community
  • Foster empathy
  • Test out a career--gain professional experience

Or this from Psychology Today:

  • Once a volunteer, always a volunteer
  • Volunteers lead healthier and longer lives!
  • Volunteering is transformative for youth

Or this: http://www.pointsoflight.org/about-us

  • Empathy
  • Curiosity
  • Sociability
  • Resilience
  • Self-Awareness
  • Integrity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Creativity

And definitely this: https://www.habitat.org/stories/why-volunteer

  • Nobody is an Island
  • Life is easier when you are part of a family, neighborhood or network of friends
  • You start building a good neighborhood when you yourself decide to be a good neighbor

Did you know:

Whether a student volunteers because their friends are doing so or because it will look good on a college application, the benefits of volunteering are real. IMHO, regardless of why they do it, all signs point to encouraging them to do it.