Volunteering is an excellent way for your teenager to give back to the community. But it’s also a practical way for your teenager to learn some real-world skills, as well as even exploring potential career paths.
“We’ve had a ton of volunteers where the experience has really helped develop an interest in their future,” says Sarah Perez-Stable, director of volunteer services for the Cleveland-based Youth Challenge. “And we’ve had volunteers go on to be special education teachers or occupational or physical therapists. We’ve even had volunteers who became interested in genetics and want to understand how our genes can contribute to certain conditions.”
Youth Challenge is an organization that works to provide sports and other recreational experiences for children and teenagers with physical disabilities.
Benefits of Volunteering
But the benefits of volunteering for teens also include the real-world aptitudes that it develops. These include getting to work on time. Meeting deadlines. Dressing professionally. Working with colleagues. These are just some of the practical skills teenagers can learn by sticking with a volunteer experience.
“Our teenage volunteers are responsible for coming in on schedule. They have specific roles and responsibilities,” notes Perez Stable.
If your teenager wants to try volunteering, start with a conversation about his or her interests. Chances are there’s a way to pursue those interests in a not-for-profit setting somewhere in your community. That’s just what 16-year-old Maddie Sampson discovered. “I love to play the piano, so every other week I play for the residents of a retirement community in my town. It’s been great.”
Adds Maddie’s mom: “She has to be on time, dressed nicely, and prepared to play the piano for a room full of residents. Most of all, that’s taught her a lot about personal responsibility for following through on an obligation.”