There are a lot of negative stereotypes that many of us have about young people today. We (the adults) say, “when I was their age…” and shake our heads at what we perceive as laziness, lack of work ethic, or other negative behaviors. While there certainly are some youth that may not live up to our expectations, most of the time we are not giving the rest of them enough credit.
In fact, a recent University of Nebraska Lincoln publication indicates that across the board higher percentage of youth (59%) serve as volunteers compared to adults (49%). The publication also addresses several questions about youth volunteering and provides hints for families and educators to help encourage this important activity for youth. Read on for more information about why youth should volunteer and steps for us “old folks” to take to help them.
When youth volunteer, more than just the individual youth or organization they are working with can see positive results. In North Carolina we place the value of each hour of volunteer service at $19.51 – which equals an annual gross salary of $40,580 for a full time employee. If we imagine each volunteer having to be paid that amount by the organizations they work with, the costs for them would rise exponentially and they probably would not be able to serve as large an audience. The community also benefits from youth volunteerism. Volunteering promotes civic responsibility and citizenship in youth and encourages them to feel more connected to their community. Additionally the individual youth volunteers benefit from their service in a variety of ways. Volunteerism can increase a number of vital life skills such as communication, self-esteem, job skills, leadership, and others. It also is a great way for youth to stand out amongst their peers when the time comes around for college and scholarship applications.
The Nebraska publication shares the following ways that adults can help engage youth in volunteerism.
- Provide youth with information about volunteer opportunities and invite/ask/encourage them to participate.
- Help youth work through practical barriers such as issues such as scheduling, transportation, filling out applications, and whatever other steps might be necessary before volunteering.
- Help youth find an opportunity that fits his or her interest/skills and are age appropriate. This will prevent youth becoming frustrated and dropping out of volunteer activities that don’t meet their needs or interests.
- While the essence of volunteering is really to provide service without rewards, there are some tangible benefits that youth can get out of volunteering. Remind youth of the skills they can build by volunteering that will help them get a job or in the aforementioned college/scholarship applications.
- Be a role model and volunteer yourself. Make volunteering a family event and encourage everyone in your household to participate in some way.