Learning by giving: 5 ways volunteering as a teen can bring success


Teenagers have a lot of responsibilities: school, work, family, friends and planning for their future. One would think it would be difficult to find time to volunteer; surprisingly, according to a recent survey, more than half of teenagers volunteered in some capacity in 2011.

Many might believe that volunteering means giving up something to help others in need. In fact, it is giving up time and working for no pay. Volunteering for a food drive to help the hungry, giving away clothes to provide for the homeless or spending time at an animal shelter to socialize abandoned pets are all great ways to give, but the recipients of generosity aren’t the only ones who benefit. Volunteers also stand much to gain by giving. Nov. 15 marks National Philanthropy Day, a good time to reflect on five things teenagers can gain from volunteering.

The social aspect of volunteering

This study showed that the majority of teenagers volunteer because their friends volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and to network. Many people have met lifelong friends through volunteer activities. Many may even become friends with the people they help: that older dog that they walk once a week, or the elderly gentleman and young girl that they read to on a monthly basis can become their lifelong pals. Embrace the social aspect of volunteering.

Having gratitude

Volunteering for people who are less fortunate can help volunteers realize how fortunate they actually are. Helping to feed the homeless, or build a house can teach people about showing gratitude for having a daily meal and shelter. Living and volunteering abroad in an impoverished country can make people appreciate clean drinking water and sanitary bathrooms. Without such experiences, it is easy to forget to appreciate the little things that many people live without. Volunteering can teach teenagers gratitude at a young age.

Staying out of trouble

Volunteering their time can prevent teenagers from getting into trouble with the law. Teenagers who have a lot of extra time on their hands often find mischief, which can land them into a tough spot. Spending time giving to a good cause can teach teenagers about leadership and setting a good example. It also keeps them busy.

Building a resume

Among the numerous benefits for the recipient and the giver, volunteer work looks great on a resume or college application. Many future employers will ask, “What do you do in your spare time?” It makes a great impression to mention volunteering every week by picking up trash or visiting a retirement home. Volunteer work helps individuals stand out from the crowd.

Learning about themselves and the world

Many people who volunteer actually benefit more themselves than the person they are helping. Volunteers learn about themselves while they are volunteering. They learn about people from other backgrounds with whom they may not necessarily come into contact if it weren’t for volunteering. They learn about the world and the different environments in which other people live. This is an extremely important concept that volunteering provides: opening up the mind to different ways of life.

White River Academy recognizes that experiences outside the classroom, like volunteering, are as vital to an education as academics. That is why this boarding school for troubled boys makes community service a priority in its curriculum. If you know a teenager who is battling with a mental illness, a behavior problem or substance abuse, White River Academy may be able to help. For more information please call 866-520-0905.

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