families. Youth from poor inner-city and rural areas are doing substantially worse on national achievement tests than youth from more affluent school districts. School dropout is particularly high among Hispanic youth and adolescents living in poor communities. Many young women and men are engaging in unsafe sex, exposing them to sexually transmitted infections. Smoking cigarettes, obesity, and gun violence on school campuses have all increased.
All young people need a variety of experiences to develop to their full potential. All youth need an array of experiences to reduce risk-taking and promote both current well-being and successful transition into adulthood. Such experiences include opportunities to learn skills, to make a difference in their community, to interact with youth from multicultural backgrounds, to have experiences in leadership and shared decision making, and to make strong connections with nonfamilial adults. These experiences are important to all young people, regardless of racial or ethnic group, socioeconomic status, or special needs.
Some young people have unmet needs and are particularly at risk of participating in problem behaviors. Young people who have the most severe unmet needs in their lives are particularly in jeopardy of participating in risk behaviors, such as dropping out of school, participating in violent behavior, or using drugs and alcohol. Young people with the most severe unmet needs often live in very poor and high-risk neighborhoods with few opportunities to get the critical experiences needed for positive development. They are often experience repeated racial and ethnic discrimination. Such youth have a substantial amount of free, unsupervised time during their nonschool hours. Other youth who are in special need of more programs include youth with disabilities of all kinds, youth from troubled family situations, and youth with special needs for places to find emotional support.
Promoting Adolescent Development at the Program Level
Understanding adolescent development and the factors contributing to the healthy development of all young people is critical to the design and implementation of community programs for youth. A priority of the committee’s work was identifying what is necessary for adolescents to be happy, healthy, and productive at the present time, as well as successful, contributing adults in the future.
Adolescence is a time of great change: biological changes associated with puberty, major social changes associated with transitions between
When I was a teenager, I remember helping the neighbor with her groceries or babysitting for the kids down the street a couple hours for free, but when I was growing up, I don't really remember an emphasis on high school community service. The buzz was largely about getting a job or multiple jobs to pay for the extras that I wanted and my parents would not buy. I worked at Macy's, bussed tables at a local restaurant, and scooped ice cream in the summer. Plus, did a lot of babysitting. Of course, I believe most teens still look for—and appreciate—the benefits of working in a part-time job but also truly understand the personal benefits of worthwhile community service work.
It may be somewhat obvious, but worth noting to remind us all that teens should volunteer as much as they can throughout their teen years. Teenagers who volunteer gain benefits ranging from increased self-esteem to acquiring valuable job skills. And it goes without saying that community service is also a critical component of a successful college application.
[Get 50 fun and creative community service ideas here!]
Why Community Service Work is Beneficial for Teens
The Personal Benefits of Teen Volunteering:
- Develops an increased sense of social responsibility—a global view of society and a heart for "giving back" and helping others.
- Exposes teens to diversity and multiculturalism.
- Provides an opportunity to apply academic learning to real human needs.
- Builds relationships and "social connectedness" with peers, adults, and activists sharing a cause.
- Improves communication and critical thinking skills.
The College Admissions Benefits of Teen Volunteering:
- Helps students stand out among other applicants; admissions officers want well rounded co-eds who volunteer; service work is a leading decision-making factor after a student's GPA and SAT scores.
- Provides a topic of interest for college essays; emphasis on "why" and "how" a student has tackled an issue.
The Career Benefits of Teen Volunteering:
- Helps students find their passions and interests that may lead to a career choice they may have not considered.
- Helps develop lifelong interpersonaland communication skills.
Community service is an essential way for students to explore their interests, show colleges what they believe in, and define a possible career path. By engaging in volunteer work, teens have an opportunity to learn experientially. They discover where their passions lie while undertaking "feel good" projects that truly make a difference. These experiences allow them to make more informed choices about college and career options as well as instilling a lifelong interest in giving back.
Even though I consider myself a good person, community service was less emphasized when I was a kid. Today, I am often impressed by the teens I know. They are not just helping their neighbor with the groceries or babysitting for free. They are building houses, delivering meals, singing for the elderly, and more. They realize that community service has the potential to be life changing in more ways than one.