Jun 20, 2016

Hey Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today! (volunteering in your community)

I know the Summer, for students anyways, is all about making money, going on incredible trips, or relaxing on your own. I know I take it as a break from my classmates - too much of a good thing y’know? But it’s easy to forget that there are other people out there either in need of some help or who are trying to make a difference in the world that need help accomplishing their goals. (the way I think of it... we can either get out and volunteer for the good of humanity, or take the Phineas and Ferb approach and build crazy cool inventions - also for the good of humanity, or relax by doing things like watching Phineas and Ferb, losing countless brain cells and senselessly snacking.

As students, we have to turn in a certain number of hours before the end of each school year in order to receive certain privileges or benefits. Most just sign up for your basic volunteer type activities that first come to mind when thinking about community service. Local food kitchens and shelters, picking up trash, YMCA or other Summer program with children, or various activities at their parents' work places. I'm not saying these things are bad. They're great actually! However, you can use volunteering to your advantage for applications and building your resume and have even more of a fun and lasting experience at the same time. And even if it's not required of you to volunteer in your community, you definitely should. It can be a humbling experience that could possibly change your life as well as look amazing on your resume.

Finding the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHERE:

Obviously before you can submit your time to an incredible organization and feel that incredible sense that you're helping people, you have to find a place and a cause or group that you want to spend your personal time helping. There are the options I listed out above and also consider non profit organizations! If you think about all the nonprofits there are - especially the ones based in your area, the possibilities and opportunities are endless! Some animal shelters are not for profit, I Can 4 Isaac, my family's non profit organization, and also GoodWill and some other thrift stores are non profit as well. There are also virtual volunteering opportunities such as the ones listed on Volunteer Match so if your schedule is booked with babysitting jobs, then you definitely might want to check out this site!

Ultimately, you need to find a group that you can fully stand behind and support. If you don't agree or care about what the organization or charity is doing, then you will not get anything out of the experience, and neither will the organization that you are volunteering for. Obviously if you hate animals, don't volunteer at a shelter to clean crates and take animals on walks or offer to foster an animal. If you hate cooking for large amounts of people, don't volunteer at a soup kitchen. If you can't stand organizing, don't offer your hours to a library or distribution center.

Use your God-given unique talents to make your community a better place. What your BFF is doing to earn his community service hours might not be the volunteer activity that's best for you. If you love kids, find an opportunity that involves working with children! Perhaps a Vacation Bible School or daycare. As always, if you're having difficulties finding a way for you to help your community with your time, run a google search and see what others have done!

Be sure that the person in charge of wherever you choose to volunteer your time at, is a person you can handle being bossed around by. This can actually be a big deciding factor in the where and what you volunteer for. If the person is lazer focused on getting specific goals accomplished on an insanely tight schedule or if they abuse the fact that you are volunteering your personal hours to assist them and their organization then you might want to keep looking for another opportunity.

Be sure the "Where" is in a place you feel comfortable and safe, or that you are at least around people that will keep you safe. Sometimes community service can require us to be uncomfortable in order to truly better someone else's life. However, being selfless does not mean that you need to completely risk your safety or all of your comfort zone.... I hope that made sense.

Here's a few things to keep in mind when looking for and landing the perfect community service opportunity for your resume :

Although you might be ultimately volunteering to get the required minimum community service hours for your school, or to make your resume and college applications look better... You need to actually do something productive during your experience:

I know I know... It's all about you. But, it isn't.

You never know, You might find volunteering with a particular organization is what you want to devote your life to. It could happen! Just go into it with an open mind, loving heart, and helping hands and you will definitely get the most out of your experience. As long as you have your priorities in check, you should be set to make the most out of your volunteered hours.

You'll ALWAYS come across as more professional if you reach out yourself:

Most of the time high school students rely on their parents to get them community service opportunities. However, as most things are, if you take initiative and have professionalism as your main focus you'll have a much better experience than someone lacking initiative. For the past couple years now, I myself have done all the reaching out for community service opportunities. Reaching out yourself automatically makes you seem much more serious about being a part of whatever you're volunteering your time for than if your mom signs you up.

Side note- make sure you reach out on a Facebook page or website where you know the person in charge will see your volunteer opportunity inquiry or that you send a request via a professional (no ilovepuppies98) email address.

Before Continuing... Here's what I plan on doing this Summer community service wise:

I have a passion for writing, photography, and social media. I am considering a career in communications and public relations so when looking for volunteer opportunities, I choose something that allows me to practice my passions in a more professional manner where I'm still helping and doing something for the good of the community. With my family's non profit, I am running social media and the website - don't judge, I haven't gotten it the way I want it quite yet - which is helping to raise money to make the South Carolina State Parks more accessible for people of all mobilities.

Recently, we adopted a dog from a local rescue. I've taken quite a few animal photos in the past so I came up with the idea to submit a portfolio and offer to photograph the Rescue's animals for their website and social accounts! It's volunteer work like this that will get my name out there next to my photographs, while helping animals get adopted as well.

A few more things to keep in mind:

Think of community service as a self initiated miniature internship where you can make the world a better place as you volunteer your time. I encourage you to be creative in what you do to get those hours in whether it's required of you or not. Keep in mind that no volunteer work you do is unnecessary or unappreciated. No matter what you're helping someone or something or some cause that is ultimately for the good of mankind. 

Be sure you have at least one person there that you have a good relationship with at the location you're volunteering at. You'll need them for a reference later on - but you can also meet some of the greatest people and friends through volunteering. I've met some incredible people with the kindest and biggest hearts that I never would have been introduced to if it weren't for these experiences. 

Go in with a plan - You don't want to be that dumb teenager that hands in pockets, shoulders shrugged, doesn't know what to do once they arrive at the place they're volunteering at. HAVE A PLAN! Also, if things don't go as initially planned... have another couple ideas for how you can help!

Offer Extra - Don't just do enough work to pass under the radar. Go above and beyond! Certainly not with a "holier than thou" attitude, but offer your hands wherever a pair could be needed by anybody. If anyone drops anything, don't hesitate to scoop it up for them. If most everyone else leaves early, don't - if you can afford to obviously. Call whoever and tell them where you are and that you'll be home late. Some of the best experiences I've had with community service was staying after my official shift was over. 

Basically always be thinking about how you can use your talents to better your community without charging for your service. Keep an eye open for any possibilities. This work has the potential to change your life so take every opportunity that comes your way extremely seriously. Build great relationships with great people, do great things, and have great fun while doing it! 

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