The majority of high school students today are applying to college. This means that grades and test scores are sometimes no longer enough for acceptance. A large cross section of the American higher education system is now looking at volunteer experience to push students over the top. While fall and winter months offer the most obvious and accessible volunteer experiences (soup kitchens, clothing drives), there is not always time, between homework and sports, for high school students to get involved in these activities. Summer vacation provides these students with far more free time, but what opportunities are available to them during these warmer months?
Without question there is always an opportunity to feed the hungry. Contact local soup kitchens or churches to see what sort of hunger relief they provide during the summer months. They may want someone to make and donate sandwiches or they may be looking for someone to help serve food. You may even find, in smaller communities especially, that they don’t have anything set up and would be grateful to a group of students who would come in and run a hunger relief program for them (a good opportunity for a sports team or theater troupe).
The warm weather of summer presents a good opportunity for city clean-up projects, another good option for a group of students, keeping in mind that it will most likely become a physically demanding experience. Contact the city government office, asking for projects such as painting over graffiti, projects that need to be done but are not always top priority behind general maintenance work. The majority of the time you will find that the supplies to complete the job have already been purchased and stored, the city maintenance workers simply haven’t had anyone with the time to use the supplies. However, in some cases, you or your group may need to provide some or all of your own supplies. Be prepared when you make the contact to provide what is needed, even if you find out later that you don’t need to.
If the churches are not looking for anyone for the hunger relief programs and the city government has the graffiti problem covered, or if you are on your own looking for volunteer experience, there are many other options for you to explore. One great place to look if you are on your own is day camps and summer recreation programs. Most cities and towns across the country offer these kinds of programs during the summer. If you are especially crafty or artistic, offer to teach an arts and crafts class. Experience in theater or music can also be helpful to a summer recreation program. Athletes may want to contact the local YMCA or other local athletic center and offer to coach summer sports for kids.
Other places to try contacting are local Special Olympics chapters, the Salvation Army and or Goodwill, the American Red Cross, and local hospitals. The problem with these organizations, however, is that they are “obvious” choices and often have more volunteers than they have work for. It never hurts to ask and experience with these bigger organizations may be seen as more reputable on a resume or college application.
Finally, if none of these options are available in your community or none of them seem to fit your areas of expertise or abilities, try branching out on your own. Take out an ad in your local paper, offering tutoring services in a subject you are skilled in. Spend one afternoon a week picking up litter in your local parks and along the streets in your neighborhood. Offer to do free yard work for elderly or disabled people. Summer provides many opportunities for volunteer work, as long as you know where to look.