Back to School: How Teens Can Make Service A Priority Throughout The Year

As we get into the swing of the new school year, teenagers are presented with a multitude of opportunities to learn and grow. While academics, extracurricular activities, and social engagements often occupy a significant portion of their time, there’s a valuable endeavor which can offer even greater rewards: being of service. Volunteerism and engaging in community service not only benefits the causes you’re passionate about but also enhances personal development, leadership skills, and empathy.

Here’s a guide on how teens can make being of service a priority this school year:

Discover Your Passion

The first step in making volunteering a priority is to find a cause that truly resonates with you. Reflect on your interests, values, and the issues you care about most. Whether it’s animal welfare, environmental conservation, education, or supporting the elderly, there’s a cause that will align with your passions. If you’re not sure what you’re truly passionate about, aligning with a service group that helps multiple nonprofits could be a great way to go.

Research Opportunities

Once you’ve identified your passion, start researching local volunteer opportunities related to that cause. Check with local nonprofit organizations, schools, religious institutions, and community centers. Many websites and apps also provide listings of volunteer opportunities in your area. For example, just simply google keywords, “animal volunteer opportunities near me,” if you have a fondness for furry critters.

Set Clear Goals

Just like with any other commitment, setting clear goals for your volunteering experience can help you stay focused and motivated. Define what you hope to achieve – whether it’s gaining leadership skills, making new friends, or contributing a certain number of hours. Our Student Service Program recommends using SMART goals (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) as taught by author Sean Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. He believes the act of writing sets things in motion!

Time Management

Balancing volunteering with schoolwork and other activities requires effective time management. You can use The Covey Time Management Matrix to direct your attention to important personal development. Create a schedule that outlines your commitments, ensuring that you allocate enough time for each. Figure out what is a priority and what is not so urgent. Be realistic about how much time you can dedicate without overwhelming yourself.

Collaborate with Friends

Volunteering can be even more enjoyable when you involve your friends. Collaborate on projects, or even sign up for the same volunteer opportunities. Working together not only strengthens your friendship but also multiplies the impact you can make.

Incorporate Skills

Identify the skills you possess that could be beneficial to the cause you’re volunteering for. This is the “Talent” part of the 4 T’s of Philanthropy taught in our Student Service Program. If you’re good at organizing events, marketing, or graphic design, offer these skills to enhance the effectiveness of the projects you’re involved in.

Plan Small Acts

Time is a precious resource, however, not all volunteering requires a significant time commitment. Sometimes, small acts of kindness can go a long way. Participate in neighborhood cleanups, organize a food drive, or help a neighbor with chores. These actions, when multiplied across a community, can make a substantial difference. In addition, small acts of kindness can inspire others to spread their light in this way, too.

Integrate Volunteering into Social Activities

Merge your social life with your volunteering efforts. Suggest group volunteer outings to your friends, such as participating in charity walks or fundraisers. This way, you can enjoy quality time with friends while also contributing to a good cause.

Learn and Reflect

Volunteering provides invaluable life lessons and experiences. Take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned from your experiences. This could include improved communication skills, a broader perspective on societal issues, and a greater sense of empathy.

Celebrate Your Achievements

Acknowledge and celebrate your volunteering accomplishments. This could be through a journal, a big social post that could even inspire your friends to give back, or simply just take a moment to recognize the positive impact you’ve made. Celebrating your achievements can fuel your passion for volunteering and encourage you to continue making a difference.

Making volunteering a priority during the school year might require some juggling, but the rewards are well worth it. Not only will you contribute positively to your community and causes you care about, but you’ll also develop skills and perspectives that will serve you well throughout your life. By integrating these strategies into your routine, you can successfully balance academics, extracurriculars, and community service, creating a well-rounded and fulfilling school year.

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