Not every student is an A-team athlete or the star of the school play, nor do they have to be to win the attention of college scholarship judges and future employers.
Competition is one avenue for success in college and beyond. Good citizenship demonstrated through community service is another.
Volunteering in high school can help your rising college student change lives for the better, including their own.
Why Is Volunteering Important in High School?
Community service is work done by an individual or group for free to benefit other individuals, groups, or causes in need. Children, seniors, and people with disabilities are just a few examples of groups sometimes looking for help.
Volunteering in high school gives your child a chance to explore their interests through community service before committing to a major or career path.
Maybe the question “what do you want to be?” leaves your child lukewarm. Volunteering might heat up their passion for an existing interest or create a new one.
Meanwhile, community service also allows your child to give back to others by donating their time and skills they already have. Even all those hours spent on social media may have a purpose if your child uses them to teach others computer skills.
Community service, in any field and for any population, involves relationship building. For a child who is shy or, alternatively, one who seems a natural-born leader, working with others for a common good builds personal power and connection—both intrinsically and in the form of recommendations and contacts.
How Volunteering Can Help with Private Scholarships
If you’ve started helping your child fill out scholarship applications, you’ve probably noticed that many ask your student to describe their volunteer activities.
Scholarship judges recognize that maturity and relationship skills are both developed and demonstrated through community service work.
It might seem efficient to get your child to sign up for a one-and-done volunteer effort, but keep in mind that scholarship judges are more interested in commitment over time.
If a student shows up week after week, they demonstrate good time management skills, a sense of accountability, commitment, and the ability to resolve problems or complications that arise in long-term work relationships.
Volunteering over a longer period of time in high school is will likely result in strong scholarship recommendations with specific details that bring your child’s best self to life on the page.
Volunteers who complete qualifying volunteer hours for a certified organization may even be eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. To find out more about specific scholarship opportunities and requirements, consider joining Road2College’s How to Find Merit Scholarships Facebook group.
Ways to Volunteer
Starting volunteer work can be an adventure. Here’s a map to help your child get started.
Virtual Community Service Opportunities
Your child can do some community service work, particularly fundraising, right from their computer. Fundraising, because it’s especially quantifiable, can grab the attention of scholarship judges and other evaluators.
To start a fundraising or crowdsourcing campaign, your child should tell their story and ask for funds through email and on social media. They can use photos and/or videos to put a human face to the cause or interest group they’re working to help.
To get your child started raising money for a community service effort online, encourage them to check out Fundly.
Community Service Project Ideas
Wherever there’s a need, there’s a community service project to fill it. Dosomething.org and Prepscholar suggest numerous community service project ideas that may inspire your child:
- Encourage your child to collect things for your community, including non-perishable food items for food banks or gently used clothes and school supplies for victims of domestic violence and homeless shelters.
- Have your child look around their neighborhood or school. The work that needs to be done may be obvious. Actions to help a community include raking leaves, mowing lawns, walking dogs, and painting.
- As a high school student, your child may not see themselves as a teacher; however, it’s likely they have skills they take for granted. From offering free music lessons to translating at a parent-teacher association (PTA) meeting, when your child teaches someone else, they hone their own skills and build confidence.
- Is your child drawn to hands-on work? Have them fix or make things for their community by cleaning up a local park or building and stocking a Little Free Library. They can sew masks for front-line workers, knit blankets, or put together first aid kits for homeless shelters. Is your child a budding writer? Urge them to produce a community newsletter or write for a pre-existing one.
- If your child is a natural-born boss, have them organize a carwash or lemonade stand to raise money for a cause and demonstrate their entrepreneurial potential.
Once your child identifies community needs and their own talents, they’re on their way to doing valuable community service.
Places to Volunteer
The internet can be an ally in finding opportunities for your child to volunteer. VolunteerMatch.org is an international nonprofit network that “matches inspired people with inspiring causes.” JustServe.org is another organization connecting volunteers to community service.
Local institutions, particularly those your family already has a relationship with, are also good places to look. Here are places to start, based on your child’s interests:
Working with Children or in Education
- Have your student check your local parks and recreation office for volunteer opportunities at summer camps for children who have lost a parent, children with disabilities, or children learning a skill, such as crafting or riding a bike.
- Places of worship and PTAs also need daycare providers and rely on volunteers.
- Schools sometimes need translators for PTA meetings.
- Youth sports teams need volunteer coaches and referees.
Aiding Senior Citizens
- Senior centers are always looking for volunteers to entertain, serve as companions, and teach internet skills.
- Community organizations may need volunteers to deliver medicine or drive seniors to appointments. If your high school student has a driver’s license, they’ve got a skill.
Helping Animals and the Environment
- Animal shelters need volunteers to feed, walk, and/or play with the animals.
- Nature centers solicit volunteers for river and trail clean-ups and help with removing invasive species.
- Local parks and recreation nonprofits may offer nature camps that rely on volunteers.
Public Health and Medicine
- If your student has a calling in the health field, have them check out their local hospital or department of health and human services. Hospitals need volunteers to help wheel patients from room to room. Health and human services departments need volunteers to assist with pre-screenings at vaccination sites.
- Local fire stations may offer training for becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
No matter where or how, volunteering in high school gives your student—and others—an empowering glimpse of the real impact their time and effort have on the world.
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