There are many benefits of community service for students beyond just ticking a box for your high school or college requirements. While helping to improve your community, service projects can also teach you valuable life skills such as time management and planning. However, getting started with volunteer opportunities as a student may be challenging, as many programs take place during the school day or only allow adults.
Thankfully, we’ve put together a guide to help you enjoy the benefits of community service. We’ll also give you some starting points for finding volunteer and service learning opportunities.
The Benefits of Community Service For Students
Community service can help you grow into a more well-rounded, experienced member of society. Let’s consider a recent case study. In Texas, a high school student named Catherine Van started a nonprofit organization called The Giving which is dedicated to helping people in Houston who are experiencing homelessness and struggling to access food, essential care items, housing resources, and other forms of care. Van and her team had to learn several important skills to run their organization, including marketing for donations through their website and social media campaigns, getting approval and support from local organizations, and managing budgets. In addition, the team cites vital life skills they’ve learned including leadership, teamwork, and goal setting. Establishing and running a nonprofit not only helped the Houston community, but also gave the teens responsible the opportunity to improve themselves.
Even if you do not form your own nonprofit, volunteer work can help you develop your executive functioning skills. For example, balancing the requirements for the project as well as for school, work, and family will improve your planning, organizational, and time management skills in the process. Furthermore, by getting involved in local volunteer work, you can get a better sense of the type of issues that impact your community, as well as relevant practices and policies in place and needed. This firsthand knowledge can give you a good start in civics-based careers such as counseling, law, or politics.
Moreover, research shows that altruism and community service improve mental well-being; that is, by helping others, you can also improve your self-esteem, reduce feelings of isolation or sadness, and raise your overall happiness. Thus, you and your community benefit. It will also give you a better understanding of what underserved communities go through on a daily basis. This, in turn, can improve your emotional intelligence, teach interpersonal skills, and make it easier to build connections with different people. Community service has the word “community” in it for a reason – it solidifies you as a member of a greater cause.
How To Find Volunteer Opportunities
It is important that you choose the right community service project for yourself. If you’re nervous about leading a service project, it might be better to gain experience volunteering first. To identify volunteer work opportunities, start by asking your teachers, coaches, or librarians. You can also join clubs centered around civic duties, such as your school’s Rotary or Habitat for Humanity organizations. For additional options, consult platforms like Serve For Good, Serve Illinois, and VolunteerMatch to help identify community service opportunities for people of all ages.
If you want to dedicate your time to something that will also improve your career prospects, look into options that are connected to your desired professional role. For example, if you want to go into marketing, try volunteer and intern positions where you can create flyers, social media posts, and blogs for your organization of choice. Or if you are interested in the medical field, you can volunteer or intern at a local hospital or veterinary office. Keep your personal and professional goals in mind as you make a selection.
One excellent opportunity for volunteer work and internships is with Educate. Radiate. Elevate. We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap among students from underserved communities in the Illinois and Texas areas. We provide racially conscious and trauma-informed tutoring services that teach children in grades 6-12 academic, life, and executive functioning skills. Volunteer or intern with E.R.E. to make a real difference in your life and the lives of others!
Community Service Opportunities Near You
These Illinois and Texas based community organizations accept youth volunteers.
- Nourishing Hope: This food pantry and social services provider serves four million people in the Chicago area. It has plenty of volunteer opportunities that are easily accessible for kids as young as 9 years old. Letters of verification are provided.
- Lights Up Chicago Volunteer Program: You can work with local seniors to prepare meals, complete administrative work, or other related tasks. The program has a special service learning section for high schoolers, which can help you set up a placement close to your home or school.
- Texas Health: This organization’s high school social service learning summer program allows students to work in different roles of Texas Health Dallas Hospital, from directly helping patients to research and administration. You can volunteer as long as you’re 16 or over.
- United Way Dallas: United Way focuses on social change by helping people affected by hunger, homelessness, and lack of access to education. Their Teens United program accepts volunteers aged 14 and over to complete a variety of tasks, such as packing meals for food-insecure Texas families, performing neighborhood outreach, or working on relevant DIY projects.
- Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP): At this Houston animal shelter, there are many opportunities for people aged 14 and up to give their time to support dogs, cats, small animals, and more. Dog-loving teens can come by for one-off Teen Service Days, where they can walk and socialize with rescued dogs to prepare them for their new homes. Or volunteers can work on small service projects, such as making foster care packages for the animals.
- Teen Volunteer Houston : Started and run by teens, this nonprofit can connect you with other local nonprofits in need of volunteers, such as Meals on Wheels and Project CURE. Sign up for their calendar to gain access to summer internships.
- EnergyMag: Are you interested in science and writing, but can’t decide which to pursue? EnergyMag takes high school students from sophomore year and up on a journey of research, writing, and presenting on a science-based topic of their choice. Internships can be brief 2-8 week periods at 20 hours per week, or longer stretches at 1-9 months for 8 hours a week.
- Smithsonian: Believe it or not, the U.S.-spanning Smithsonian museums have plenty of opportunities for virtual internships. You can get involved with fundraising, digital media and communications, or creating educational programs. High school students are accepted for these internships, as are recent high school graduates.
The benefits of community service for students are clear and plentiful. As a student volunteer, you will not only receive training and hands-on experience, but you will also improve your mental health, career readiness, and life skills. Become an experienced, community-oriented person who is an active agent of change in your own life and the lives of those around you. Apply today to be a volunteer, intern, or tutor with Educate. Radiate. Elevate.!