Monday, June 5, 2023

Make It A Summer of Service

By Sam Piha


Afterschool summer programs are a great time to engage young people in activities that serve others. These could be community service projects (which are often unpaid) or service within the afterschool program, such as tutoring, mentoring, yard supervision, leading games, etc. (These can be unpaid or volunteer). Summer schedules are more flexible, we have longer days and there is usually good weather. These opportunities can be one time or 1 or more times a week. 

Below we cite some benefits of community service and volunteering, additional resources on community service ideas and other information to help get started engaging youth through volunteering. (If it is too late to include in your summer program, consider it for the fall program.)

“Teenagers are not only a valuable source of energy, goodwill and creativity, but they’re also the key to our future. Volunteering allows them to tap into all those values while also learning about the world around them.” St. Louise Children’s Hospital, Teaching Teens the Importance of Community Service

There are many benefits that participants accrue when youth engage in community service and/or volunteering. Research has shown that teens who volunteer are:

  • more responsible
  • have higher self-esteem and greater self-confidence.
  • gain skills such as leadership, good communication, time management and decision making.  
  • more likely to build connections with others. 
  • more likely to do well in school, graduate, vote and build a stronger resume for college and scholarship applications.
  • 50% less likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, become pregnant, or engage in other destructive behavior.
  • gain practical life skills while feeling valued and appreciated. 
  • less depressed, experience increased positive emotions, and experience reduced stress.

“The Dalai Lama said it best in a post that has been shared all over the world. ‘When you care for others, you manifest an inner strength despite any difficulties you face. Your own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to you. Reaching beyond your own problems and taking care of others, you gain confidence, courage, and a greater sense of calm.’”Kidz That Care, Volunteering and Teen Mental Health

Teens Have Their Own Reasons. 
According to the University of Nevada, Reno, the “major reasons cited by teens for volunteering:

  • Youth feel compassion for people in need
  • They can do something for a cause in which they believe
  • They believe that if they help others, others will help them.
  • Seventy-three percent of young people think their efforts can have a positive impact on their communities.
  • Teens rank volunteering, the environment and eating healthy, as top three activities they consider ‘cool’.
  • Youth who volunteer gain important job skills and experience, while exploring career options.
  • Young volunteers expand their social circle and enhance their social awareness.
  • Teens say the benefits received from volunteering are: Learning to respect others; learning to be helpful and kind; learning to understand people who are different; developing leadership skills, becoming more patient, and better understanding of citizenship.”

How to Choose
If your program is school-based, check if your school already has a community service partnership with a local non-profit. It is best when your young people select the cause and activity they are most interested in. They can do research and/or map the neighborhood for possible partner organizations. For instance, afterschool youth interviewed workers at a local homeless shelter and determined that collecting donations of warm gloves was what was needed. Another afterschool program in North Dakota decided after doing research, that they wanted to collect and distribute ice skates for kids in low-income families. 

Service activities can also focus on the needs of the other children in the afterschool program offering tutoring, mentoring, yard supervision, leading games, etc. 

It is important to consider the interests and abilities of your program participants, the time that is required, the attitude of the staff they may be working with, as well as how they will get to and from the location of the partner organization. 

Project Ideas
There are many possible service project ideas. Below are some links that can assist you and your program participants in considering ideas for service projects:

Service projects can also focus on educating the community on local issues like hunger, homelessness or environmental issues. 

Other Resources and Links

Source: Youth Service America

In addition to the links in the blog, additional information may be found using the links below: 

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