Good grades and high ACT/SAT scores aren’t the only things you need to get into a good college or a good job. You need experience. Volunteering is by far the best way to get students on the right track for their future. It allows them to gain experience working in the field they want to go into, while also giving back to the community. Even if they don’t know what it is they want to do yet, it’s a great way for them to figure out what they want to do, meet people who can be a mentor, make new friends with the same interests, and feel good about what they’re doing. There are so many ways students can volunteer, and we’re here to shed some light on just a few and help you think of other ways students can get involved. Keep in mind that you will have to do a lot of the research yourself since programs and resources vary depending on where you live. Luckily, the initiative of finding your own ways to volunteer is a great asset to have that employers and college admissions look for.
Did you know you can go Trick-or-Treating for charity? If you have teenage students who still love to Trick-or-Treat but are told they’re too old, have no fear! No one will judge them if they’re collecting the candy for kids affected by recent emergency disasters. Just yell, “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!” Learn more by clicking here.
When Halloween is over, however, there are still so many ways students can volunteer their time to make a difference in the world while also preparing themselves for their future. Read on!
Teaching and Mentoring
If you think you want to do something in the future that has to do with education, social work, counseling, or anything of that sort, these are the sort of volunteer programs/activities you should be doing. What’s great about these programs is that even if you don’t go into a career in education, they still look really good on applications and resumés. Besides, teaching children and adults new skills is rewarding in itself.[/fusion_text][/one_half][one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ class=”” id=””][fusion_text]
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America – Help shape a child’s future by empowering them to achieve. This is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things you’ll ever do, and all you have to do is share the kinds of activities you already like to do! To learn more, click here.
- Tutoring – There are many ways you can volunteer by tutoring. If there’s a certain subject you excel at, you can tutor your fellow classmates. Ask your school about programs they may have for tutoring centers. You can also become a volunteer at elementary schools to help little kids with general subjects such as reading, math, and writing. You may also try looking up local tutoring programs and getting in touch with them about volunteering at their facilities. A great resource we found is Reading Partners.
- Special Needs Mentor – Volunteers are always needed to help tutor kids with special needs. While it’s not the easiest job, it’s very important and very rewarding. You can always use one of your class periods to help in the special needs classroom, and even get credit for it! Or if you’re looking for something to do outside of school, look up a local Special Needs Resource Center and ask about how you can volunteer.
- Teaching English – Imagine if your family moved to another country where you didn’t know the language and hardly anyone could speak in your native tongue. There are many families here in America in that exact situation. Your school, or an elementary school, most likely have ESL programs that you can volunteer with. Another way to teach English AND travel to different countries is by teaching abroad. However, you must be at least 18 years old, and it’s a good idea to have some teaching experience (such as tutoring with your school’s ESL program). Visit GoAbroad and WorldTeach to learn more.
- Coaching or Refereeing Youth Sports – This is a fun way to volunteer with the kids in your community while also gaining important leadership skills. Explore your city’s youth sports programs, or check out these other resources: YMCA, Girls on the Run, National Alliance for Youth Sports.
- Teaching at Senior Centers – Senior Centers are always looking for volunteers to entertain the senior citizens and keep them company. If you have a particular skill, such as playing a musical instrument, you can set up times and days with a center to teach that skill to the citizens. It’s something the seniors will really look forward to, and you’ll gain experience in teaching new skills. Other ideas for things you could teach are: computer skills, art, cooking, crafts, gardening, sports, etc.. Simply look up your local senior centers and call about how you can set up your volunteering time.
Medical and Humanitarian
Help is always needed in this category, especially now with all the hurricanes and fires that have happened this year. If you are interested in working in the medical field or if you just want to help those in need, these are the programs and activities you should consider. They’ll not only give you experience working with patients, but you’ll learn how hospitals and medical centers run. These activities will also give you the leadership and teamwork skills you’ll need to succeed in this field.
- Hospitals and Children’s Hospitals – Unless you have your CNA, you won’t be able to do anything medically related. However, that doesn’t mean there are no opportunities! Children’s hospitals are probably the best places to find volunteer opportunities that don’t require you have your CNA. These include Activities Cart volunteer, Beverage Cart deliverer, Play Room volunteer, Family Resource Center volunteer, Chapel volunteers, etc.. These opportunities aren’t necessarily considered medical experience, but you’ll get your foot in the door just from working in a hospital that will look good on an application. Entertaining and comforting sick children will also be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
- American Red Cross – There are many ways to volunteer with the Red Cross, especially if you are 18 years old. If you are not 18 but would still like to be a volunteer, the Red Cross has a fantastic Youth Program for people 14-20 years old. You’ll have a commitment of minimum 4 hours a month (super easy) for a minimum of 6 months, be able to attend monthly meetings, and be trained as a Red Cross Youth Services member. To learn more, click here.
- Meals on Wheels – This one is simple to sign up for and to carry out. Meals on Wheels is an organization that delivers nutritious meals to seniors and persons with disabilities. Most volunteers become delivery drivers, but there are other ways you can volunteer as well! Meal preparation and scheduling are just a few examples of other help needed. To learn more or to see if there’s a facility near you, visit Meals on Wheels America.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Want to gain medical experience while also giving back to our veterans? Then this is perfect for you! There are many ways to volunteer with the VA, but the main way is by helping the medical staff take care of disabled veterans. You will need to do a background check and a health screening before being able to work. To learn more, click here. To register to volunteer, click here.
- Local Senior Center – If you’re serious about going into the medical field, you most likely already have your CNA, or you’re planning to get one. Once you do have it, more opportunities will open up for you. Being a nursing assistant at an assisted living home isn’t the most glamorous job, but it will give you plenty of experience, and help is always needed. If you don’t have your CNA, you can always go just to visit with the seniors, which is one of the best ways you can help anyway. Bring a board game, books, your guitar, whatever and just have fun!
- Local Homeless and Support Shelters – Serving the members of society who have nothing is rewarding in a way that you have to experience it to understand it. If this is something that interests you, be creative with it! Gather some friends, family, church group, classmates, and organize your own food drive. Organizing your own drives shows great initiative, which colleges love. While you’re at it, other great items to donate are toys, blankets, diapers, clothes, shoes, coats, etc.. There are also many different types of shelters that are in need of donations. These include Food and Care Coalitions, Women and Children Centers, Rape Recovery Centers, and LGBT Youth Centers. Speaking of LGBT Youth Centers, one of the best things you can do to help is to simply make a friend and let them know there’s someone who cares about them. Like the senior center, bringing board games, video games, sports balls, art supplies, whatever hobby you like to do to have fun can make all the difference in the world.
Animals and Environment
Is working with people not really your thing? That’s okay! Animals and the environment are in need of our help too! Learning how to help something that can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong with it takes time. So spending time with the experts is the perfect way to start! Grab your boots and sunscreen and let’s get out there!
- ASPCA – The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals offers volunteer opportunities in a variety of fields, including pet adoptions, animal rescue and rehabilitation, and government relations. Help protect animals in need, while also getting lots of cuddles! Learn more by clicking here.
- The Humane Society/Best Friends Animal Society – Both of these facilities are no-kill shelters. That means they need lots of help taking care of the animals and getting them adopted to make room in the shelter. There are also opportunities with the rescue and response teams and with the outreach teams to organize events in your community! At Best Friends, there is plenty of opportunity for animal care. You can even spend the day walking and playing with puppies! To learn more, visit The Humane Society of the U.S. and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
- Local Veterinary Hospital – Thinking about becoming a veterinarian? Contact a local veterinary hospital and ask about volunteer opportunities. You’ll learn how to handle distressed pets, give shots, bring pets out of amnesia, proper care techniques, and so on. You will also have to deal with pet owners, as well as putting people’s beloved pets down. It’s a fun job that can be really hard sometimes, so volunteering is the best way to make sure it’s something you really want to do. Because of insurance policies, you may have to go through your school as a work release program. It will vary on the hospital and your state’s laws.
- Local Zoo/Aquarium – Volunteering at a zoo or aquarium is a fun and educational way to serve your community. There most likely will not be much handling of animals, but you will learn care-taking strategies, public outreach skills, and zoo management methods. As always, the best reason to volunteer is not only to learn new skills, but to meet people who can help you get to where they are.
- State or Federal Wildlife Resources – Depending on how you want to work with wildlife will determine if you should try to volunteer with the State or Federally. Typically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deals with endangered species conservation, migratory birds, national wildlife refuges, and wildlife law enforcement. State divisions deal with local wildlife conservation, hunting and fishing law enforcement, determining hunting and fishing yield, and maintaining state wildlife conservation areas. Examples of ways you can volunteer are: banding birds, building bird boxes, river/habitat restoration, building big game troughs, pit tagging fish, etc.. If you’re a fan of getting dirty and conserving wildlife, contact your State Division of Wildlife Resources or visit the USFWS website.
- Nature Conservancy – The mission of the Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. If this is interesting to you, they are always putting on volunteer events across the country. To learn more, click here.
- Organize a Community River Clean-up – Pollution is everywhere, and it’s one of the biggest threats to wildlife and conservation. State officials don’t always have the time to organize a river clean up, but you sure can! Gather some classmates, friends, family, or church group and spend a Saturday cleaning up the litter at a nearby river, creek, or lake. Another great way to get people involved is to contact local businesses to sponsor your event in exchange for putting their logo on the volunteer t-shirts. Organizing an event like this is no easy task, but it will be well worth it when mentioned on applications!
Again, volunteering is the best way to gain experience, meet the people you need to know, and put yourself ahead of the game when it comes to college and job applications. Not to mention that you’ll be helping your community and making the world a better place. When trying to decide how you should volunteer, keep these three things in mind: 1) What skills do you want to learn? 2) What skills do you already have? 3) Where will you have the best experience and the most fun?
More examples of ways you can use your skills to volunteer: Make a video for any local non-profit or charity. Manage the social media for a non-profit. Paint a mural. Create posters. Any skills you have, there’s probably a way you can use them to make a difference. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people. It’s highly unlikely anyone is going to tell you ‘no’ when you offer to volunteer for them.