Volunteering in High School Means Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards for Your Child

Volunteering in High School Means Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards for Your Child

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?

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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 allows your child to give back to others less fortunate by donating 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, 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 intrinsic 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, true commitment, and the ability to resolve the problems or complications that arise in long-term work relationships.

Volunteering over a period of time in high school is also likely to 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 will want to tell their story and ask for funds through email and on social media.

They can use photos and videos to put a human face on the cause or interest group they are 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 their 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 while they’re at it.

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 with which your family already has a relationship, 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 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.

Helping 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 walk dogs and play with cats.
  • 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 and how, volunteering in high school gives your student—and others—an empowering glimpse of the real impact their time and efforts have on the world.






Karen Sosnoski

Karen Sosnoski is a mother of teens and a writer based in northern Virginia. Her writing has appeared in literary and mainstream publications, including, most recently The New York Times, Healthline, and The Temper She loves telling (and reading) stories about resilience found through facing limitations.