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Volunteering 101: How helping others helps your child

Volunteering can help your child prepare for college and a career, as well as build a commitment to helping others.

GreatSchools Blog

Volunteering can be an invaluable experience for your child that broadens his perspective and helps him get ready for college and a career. It's not too early for your child to begin a lifelong commitment to helping others.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Gain valuable life experiences and skills.

Whether your child builds houses for the homeless or mails flyers for a local politician, she will experience the real world through hands-on work. She can use this experience to explore her major or career interests.

Get academic credit.

Your child may be able to get academic credit for his volunteer work through service learning. This is a teaching method that integrates hands-on learning (through service to the community) into the school curriculum. It's available in some high schools and colleges, as well as in earlier grades. Your child can find out if his school offers service-learning by visiting the Learn and Serve Web site.

Send a signal to colleges.

Your child can send a signal that she would be an asset to a college community. Colleges pay attention to life inside and outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities reveal a great deal about your child, such as what her interests are, whether she can manage her priorities and maintain a long-term commitment, what diversity she would bring to the student body, and how she has made a meaningful contribution to something.

Meet interesting people.

Volunteering brings together a variety of people. Both the recipients of your child's volunteer efforts and his co-workers can be rich sources of insight. For example, he may learn about the legal profession from a former lawyer he visits at a convalescent center.

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Volunteering has many other intangible benefits. It can help your child give back to society, break down barriers of misunderstanding or fear, explore personal issues, and even have fun.

How Your Child Can Get Involved

There are many people, places, and organizations that need volunteers. Here are some tips to help your child get started:

  • Look around your community and in the phone book to see which programs are there and need help.
  • Visit your city or town Web site. It may list volunteer opportunities in your community.
  • Contact your local United Way, cultural arts association, student organization, or umbrella association that can point you in the right direction.
  • Ask your library, church or synagogue, and/or community colleges if they sponsor any volunteer groups.
  • Check out the following websites to learn more about causes and to find volunteer opportunities near you.

Questions Your Child Should Answer Before Volunteering

It's important that your child enjoy the type of service he chooses and that he has the time to stick with it. Your child should ask these questions before committing to an organization.

  • How much time do I have to commit?
  • Do I want an ongoing regularly-scheduled assignment, a short-term assignment, or a one-time assignment?
  • Am I willing to participate in a training course or do I want to start my volunteer work immediately?
  • What talents or skills do I offer?
  • What would I most like to learn by volunteering?
  • What don't I want to do as a volunteer?
  • Do I want to work alone or with a group?
  • With what kind of people do I want to work-both in terms of who is receiving my services and who my co-workers might be?

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

06/19/2009:
"'Kids should feel encouraged to join volunteer programs! My child is very excited on doing his next volunteer project!'"
04/12/2007:
"Kids should learn to serve their community and give back. Volunteering also helps them learn the importance of careers. I think it's good to volunteer through the school like with a fundraiser, tutoring or reading with younger students. "
03/28/2007:
"my son is 11 years old. i would like him to volunteer in something during the summer. i feel that it can only enrich his life.... He is the type that would really enjoy help someone..."
03/28/2007:
"This is a great article on student volunteering and very timely for summer planning."
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