Beyond the Classroom: 50 Volunteer Activities for Teens to Combat Stress and Boost Their ResumeApr 20, 2023
As a counselor, I often hear from parents about how difficult it has become for their teens to navigate the post-COVID environment. We are struggling to return to our usual selves at work, at school, in our heads. Unfortunately, our lives will never be the same; I see it in my student's behavior and approach. They have lost hope that society, college, friends, and even family are worth putting energy into. From Young and unabashed go-getters who had big dreams to save the world, many teens have become scared and self-centered cynical observers who fear only for themselves. I know this might sound dark and uninspiring, but it is my observation. I know observing alone is not enough, and recently, questioning what can be done about it, I began recommending more volunteering activities for my students.
Naturally, the first question I get is, "How will this help me in my college application?" Again, the usual tit-for-tat type of behavior, but instead of focusing on that, I advise them to do it for their own betterment. I know it works because Alex, one of my students from my last cohort, had managed to turn his life around all because of giving selflessly to others. When he first came to me, he didn't feel like he belonged at school or home. He had always struggled to fit in with his classmates and felt he had no real friends. He also had a problematic relationship with his parents, who didn't understand him.
Alex started to feel increasingly isolated and alone, and he began withdrawing from his friends and all around him. He stopped participating in school activities and hobbies that he once enjoyed. He felt like he didn't have any purpose in life.
I suggested to Alex that he try volunteering at a Milpitas animal shelter. Alex had no experience with animals and was hesitant at first, but with his mom's help (who was at the end of her rope by that time), he decided to try it. On his first day, he was assigned to help with a shy dog by walking and just being there.
Needless to say, he was nervous and felt uninspired and, from his account, "empty." But it wasn't the end of the week when he realized how much he enjoyed being around this dog, and he even said they shared similar feelings. Who knows what he meant? I didn't ask because I didn't see Alex for a month after that. It turned out he continued volunteering at the shelter, visiting every weekend and most of his spring break, spending time with the animals, who didn't judge him or make him feel like an outsider. He also enjoyed working with the other volunteers, who were kind and accepting.
Over time, Alex started to take on more responsibilities at the shelter. He learned how to clean the cages and administer medication to the animals. He also began to help with fundraising and outreach events.
Alex's experience at the animal shelter helped him find a sense of belonging and purpose that he had been missing. As a result, he started to feel more confident and optimistic about his future. He even made some new friends through his volunteer work.
So, to all the parents out there, I urge you to encourage your teens to try volunteering. It may be the key to helping them find their place in the world and giving them a sense of purpose. And to make this easier, here are fifty ideas of places and activities that you might want to add to your list of resume building or character building experience this summer.
Here are 50 ways to volunteer and the actual places where that is possible:
- Volunteer at a local food pantry or soup kitchen (e.g., Skyland Food Pantry)
- Donate blood at a blood drive or blood bank (e.g., American Red Cross)
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter (e.g., Salvation Army)
- Volunteer at a local animal shelter (e.g., Humane Society)
- Volunteer at a hospital (e.g., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital)
- Volunteer at a nursing home or assisted living facility (e.g., AARP)
- Participate in a beach or park cleanup (e.g., National Park Service)
- Volunteer at a community garden (e.g., Urban Harvest)
- Volunteer at a literacy program (e.g., Reading Partners)
- Volunteer at a community center (e.g., YMCA)
- Mentor a child or young adult (e.g., Big Brothers Big Sisters, look into Saint Victor School in San Jose, CA, or your local elementary school)
- Volunteer at a summer camp (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs of America)
- Volunteer at a local library (e.g., Houston Public Library)
- Volunteer at a youth sports league (e.g., i9 Sports)
- Volunteer at a music or arts festival (e.g., South by Southwest)
- Volunteer at a senior center (e.g., Area Agency on Aging)
- Volunteer at a community theater (e.g., Alley Theatre)
- Volunteer at a local fire department (e.g., Houston Fire Department)
- Volunteer at a police department (e.g., Houston Police Department)
- Volunteer at a disaster relief organization (e.g., American Red Cross)
- Volunteer at a children's hospital (e.g., Texas Children's Hospital)
- Volunteer at a women's shelter (e.g., The Women's Home)
- Volunteer at a domestic violence shelter (e.g., The Bridge)
- Volunteer at a local historical society (e.g., Houston Historical Society)
- Volunteer at a community bike ride or race (e.g., BP MS 150)
- Volunteer at a charity walk or run (e.g., Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure)
- Volunteer at a school (e.g., Teach for America)
- Volunteer at a science museum (e.g., Houston Museum of Natural Science)
- Volunteer at a children's museum (e.g., Children's Museum of Houston or the Academy of Science in San Francisco)
- Volunteer at a cultural festival (e.g., Houston Greek Fest)
- Volunteer at a holiday charity event (e.g., Toys for Tots)
- Volunteer at a local farmers market (e.g., Urban Harvest Farmers Market)
- Volunteer at a habitat restoration project (e.g., Bayou Preservation Association)
- Volunteer at a community art project (e.g., Houston Arts Alliance)
- Volunteer at a community choir or orchestra (e.g., Houston Symphony)
- Volunteer at a community dance troupe (e.g., Houston Ballet)
- Volunteer at a community choir (e.g., Houston Chamber Choir)
- Volunteer at a community theater group (e.g., Main Street Theater)
- Volunteer at a community orchestra (e.g., Houston Civic Symphony)
- Volunteer at a community chorus (e.g., Houston Masterworks Chorus)
- Volunteer at a community art museum (e.g., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)
- Volunteer at a community science museum (e.g., Children's Museum of Houston)
- Volunteer at a community cultural center (e.g., Asia Society Texas Center)
- Volunteer at a community nature center (e.g., Houston Arboretum & Nature Center)
- Volunteer at a community science center (e.g., Houston Museum of Natural History
- Volunteer at a local environmental organization (e.g., Citizens' Environmental Coalition)
- Volunteer at a local community development corporation (e.g., Avenue CDC or local library)
- Volunteer at a local disaster preparedness organization (e.g., Neighborhood Centers Inc.)
- Volunteer at a local community radio station (e.g., KPFT 90.1 FM)
- Volunteer at a local community garden project (e.g., Urban Harvest Community Gardens)
There are of course many more places that can be added and this is just the start to building a good character, adding an extra boost to a resume, but most importantly getting out of your comfort zone and feeling productive and happy.
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