One holiday season a few years ago, my family and I had the honor of participating in Wreaths Across America. The organization’s mission is to remember, honor, and teach by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 1,400 locations all across the U.S., at sea, and abroad. We, along with several hundred others, at one of our local military cemeteries, placed a live wreath on soldiers’ graves. It was a humbling experience for myself, my husband, and my boys. It was a great time to recognize and reflect on what these men and women did to preserve our freedom and to think of the ones who continue to do so today.

Volunteer opportunities like Wreaths Across America are important for our kids to experience for many reasons. These opportunities can:

  • Teach the importance of being selfless
  • Allow kids to gain new or practice skills
  • Increase exposure to different careers that they might want to pursue
  • Help in the college application process to show that your teen is not only focused on academics but also contributing to the community

Many high schools now require students to have volunteer or service hours to graduate. I have seen ranges from 40 – 100 hours for this requirement. I have also heard that some scholarship applications require service hours.

Of course, every kid’s motivation to volunteer will vary. There is a student at our local martial arts center who is always coordinating collection drives and fundraisers. Then there are kids, like mine, who you have to “guide” (nag) them to find volunteer opportunities and go do them.

Here are some tips you can use to help your teen create opportunities that are meaningful for them:

Identify Their Interests: What does your teenager like to do? Do they like being creative, exercising, building things, cooking, speaking? Do they like being around pets, kids, senior adults?

Brainstorm Ideas: See how you could combine their interests and who they like being around. For example, if they enjoy exercising and being around kids, they could volunteer to be a sports coach. If they like building and pets, they could offer to build things for a local animal shelter. If they like to paint and being with the elderly, they could teach a painting class at a local retirement community.

Volunteer hours for teens can be more than collecting food or clothing. If your kid needs some inspiration, check out Sign-Up Genius’ article on 50 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers.

My most important tip is to make sure your teen keeps track of all the volunteer hours they do from 9th to 12th grade. They will need this information when completing college applications. To help them stay organized, check out the My Ideal College Countdown Organizer. The organizer comes with grade-by-grade checklists that tells you exactly what to do and provides a place to keep track of it all. Want more help with getting your kid to college? Schedule a complimentary College Assessment Plan call with me here.