Alternative Spring Break or Stay-cation? Volunteering can make it memorable!
School spring breaks start over the next few weeks. Are you staying around during the break and looking for something to fill your time? Try volunteering. As kids and teens help the community, they can learn new skills, make friends, and start to build their civic transcript or resume. But, most importantly, students can take this time to explore their passions, says Robert Rosenthal, vice president of communications at VolunteerMatch, “Historically, society has underestimated the passion of teens,” Rosenthal says. But, he says, many people who go on to make a difference in the world begin fueling their interests as teenagers. In fact, many of the nonprofits listed on VolunteerMatch were started by teenagers, he says. “When you give teens tools, they can put that passion to work in a way that’s really surprising,” Rosenthal says.
It’s a great practice for parents to talk with their kids about what inspires them and open the discussion of how they could change the world by working on a project that feel passionate about. Then they can work together to address which volunteer opportunities best match these interests. Creating a profile on Pebble Tossers and using their custom search engine facilitates the process of discovering projects based on family likes and abilities. Pebble Tossers partners with 122 vetted nonprofits in Metro Atlanta which offers many different opportunities. Members login to their account and can search by a) cause area, b) organizations, and c) projects. When a project or organization looks interesting, members call to schedule the project. At this point, they start their own ripple of giving.
While many people may immediately think of volunteering as picking up garbage in a park or stocking a pantry at a soup kitchen—both valuable experiences—there’s a broader range of opportunities, and likely many that align with a student’s specific passion, Rosenthal says. “Say a kid cares a lot about comics—there are often comic book museums near the community, and those are nonprofits that need help,” he notes.
Volunteer opportunities are out there for just about any interest, whether it’s the environment, animal welfare, social justice for teens, or activities in their schools. Once a teen decides on a volunteering opportunity, parents need to support them, Rosenthal says—after all, it’s their passion, not just something that’s getting them off the couch. One of the best ways to support their child’s volunteering is by providing transportation to the venue if needed, Rosenthal says, or better yet, by creating new family traditions of serving together.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that volunteering looks good on a college application and résumé, either. In fact, it’s nearly expected, Rosenthal says. “Every college these days and many employers are looking closely at the civic and community involvement of applicants,” he notes. He also refers to the “evolution away from the baseline of volunteering.” On a college application, “It used to be enough for a student to have been a volunteer,” he says. But now, admissions officers want proof of concrete accomplishments through that volunteer experience, along with explanations of what the student learned and how they performed as a leader. He suggests that teens, whether applying to college or for a job, try to “show that you’re a well-rounded person and that you care about the community.”
And volunteering for something that the student is passionate about will certainly help convey that point. “When you give teens opportunities and invite them to make a difference, more often or not, they will act on that.”
Pebble Tossers suggests trying one of these ideas over spring break:
- Open Hand – prepare nutritious meals for those in extreme poverty
- Atlanta Community Food Bank – many options: sorting food, community gardents, etc.
- Senior Connections – preparing nutritious meals for Meals on Wheels routes to seniors.
- Trees Atlanta – weeding, event prep, tree plantings & tree care
- Visit your nearest Assisted Living Facility to talk & spend time with residents
- Write letters and cards to the Military, then Mail to Operation Gratitude or HeroBox
- Start a Shoe Drive for Pebble Tossers Shoe Drive that runs March 15 – April 18, 2015 (shoes will be kept out of landfill and shipped to Africa to provide opportunities for education & employment)
- Clean out your closets and donate items to local shelters or St. Vincent de Paul, Community Assistance Center, Drake House, and the Atlanta Mission.