A Guide to Finding Community Service Opportunities
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Christopher Kilner in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- Identifying Your Skills and Interests
- Identifying Organizations
- Applying to Volunteer
- Performing Community Service
Interested in helping people around you? Community service is a great way to give back to others. But it’s not always easy to figure out what you want to do as a volunteer, or where you want to volunteer. This article will help you sort through some of the questions you have about community service, and will walk you through your search for the right position.
Identifying Your Skills and Interests
Before thinking about where you’d like to volunteer, it’s important to consider what you have to offer, and what you’re most passionate about. Maybe you really care about children, and want to work as a tutor for students in underprivileged areas. Maybe you’re good at art, and you think you could help an organization with their graphic design.
High school students have a lot to offer. Outreach, fundraising, graphic design, social media, and cleaning are all tasks that organizations often look for help from young people.
While you can and should seek out roles you’ll be good at, it’s also necessary to find a role that you’ll be invested in. If you don’t care about the work that you’re doing, you’ll find it difficult to continue. If you look forward to what you do, you’ll be able to keep going, and you’ll probably feel much more pride in all that you accomplish.
Whatever it is that you excel at, you can almost certainly find a position that will enable you to put your skills to use. Once you have a handle on where your talents lie, and what you’re most passionate about, you can start to look for organizations that do work in areas you care about.
No matter where you are, there will be places that would love to have high school students helping them. It isn’t always easy to find these organizations, though, especially when you haven’t looked for them before.
Rather than starting out by searching for specific groups, it is often helpful to ask around your personal network. Teachers (past and present), friends, counselors, or social workers may be able to point you in the right direction.
If you don’t know of anybody to ask, however, there are also volunteer networks, nonprofit organizations, or other facilities that can help connect you to a group that does the kind of work you’d be interested in doing.
It can sometimes be nerve-wracking to reach out to people about volunteer opportunities, especially if you don’t know anyone associated with the organization. The easiest way is always to be straightforward, and just ask. Try to remember that people will be glad to hear that you’re looking to help out, and will often work to facilitate your offer!
Applying to Volunteer
After you’ve found the right organization, you may discover that they’re very happy for your assistance and will provide a role for you without too much effort on your part. Sometimes, though, you’ll need to apply for a volunteer position.
An application to perform community service will typically involve some sort of essay that asks you to describe why you want to volunteer, why you’re interested in the particular organization, and what you bring to the table. You may also be asked to provide a letter of recommendation.
If you’ve chosen a place based on skills you know you can provide, and a mission that aligns with what you’re passionate about, you’ll stand out. It’s very important to think about these things ahead of time—you don’t want to send off twenty applications just because you think you want to do community service. You should feel sure of what you want to do, and excited at the chance to do it!
Performing Community Service
Once you’re in, you should feel very proud of how much you’ve already done. But the real work lies ahead, and while it’s natural to feel very excited about helping others, you should temper your expectations and know that you’re not quite going to change the world in one day.
Start with the tasks you’ve been given—don’t worry if the workload seems light at first. You want to work your way up. Eventually, you’ll be able to take on more responsibilities.
Because you came in knowing your skill set, you can keep in mind that you’re in this position to fulfill a certain role. As such, you can draw up your own goals and hopes about what you want to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like you need it. Many volunteers love to collaborate and would be happy to lend you a hand! Remembering what you came in to do will help you stay clear-eyed in the work ahead of you.
And if you start to feel like you’re not able to do the work you want to do, or that you’re not actually very invested in this particular type of service, it’s okay to move on and find a different type of volunteer opportunity. You don’t have to stick with something you’re not passionate about, especially if you truly want to help others.
Community service is meant to make your own small part of the world a little bit better. You should feel proud of what you’re doing, and you might discover that service has helped you to grow as a person, too.