In my household Saturday represents volunteer night as my 17-year old son heads to the local community center to help coordinate youth activities and support staff at the membership service desk. What started as ‘mandatory’ volunteer service required for his high school credit parlayed into his own self-directed weekly volunteer contribution. He is not alone, standing together with thousands of other teens across Canada making a meaningful difference in our communities. Let’s salute all teen volunteers during National Volunteer Week 2016 (April 10-16) for giving their time and talent.
While an impressive number of teens are making a positive impact in our communities, we need to enable more to get involved. Here’s why:
- Volunteering provide teens with experiential learning for personal growth. These experiences give teens the chance to develop self-esteem, confidence and mental and emotional agility; while learning communication, problem-solving and time management skills.
- Youth under the age of 19 years struggle to gain any level of employment. Volunteering gives them real-life experience, in a low-risk environment, to develop workplace aptitude and skill. Many charitable organizations require teen volunteers to submit resumes and background checks, and commit to training and some form of schedule which mirror workforce realities. These requirements along with the hands-on learning promote critical thinking, team work and accountability.
- Entrusting our teens to volunteer promotes a caring culture in our community. By reinforcing shared values of empathy, trustworthiness, perseverance and selflessness the volunteer experience can give teens ‘real-life’ learning in an emotionally safe environment.
- Our communities are healthier and stronger when all citizens are engaged. Developing opportunities for teen volunteerism enables our communities to be more welcoming and open to everyone. Teens can find a meaningful place to contribute and express themselves while decreasing our risk of alienating them from their community.
- Making early community contributions through volunteerism teens become early adopters and are more likely to continue to volunteer in later life. In turn, we all benefit.
As we recognize all volunteers during National Volunteer Week, join me with this special shout out to the thousands of teenagers who freely give their time and talent. Thank you Teens!
If you or your organization would like learn how to engage teenagers in volunteerism please contact your national volunteer agency. In Canada, connect with Volunteer Canada.