Volunteer work and community service are among the most important activities you can encourage your student to engage in.
Not only does this type of work impart valuable lessons in teamwork, humility, and compassion, but it can also introduce students to potential careers, mentors, and networks.
Students will learn new skills, both technical and interpersonal, and play a vital role in their own communities. Yes, it will look good on a college application, but beyond that, it will provide opportunities for your student to broaden his or her perspective, develop empathy, and mature socially and emotionally. This is character-building work, and at Signet, we always strongly encourage students of all ages to get involved with organizations, initiatives, and individuals who strive to help others and make a difference in their communities.
Initially, however, you have to get your student interested in volunteering, which isn’t always the easiest task. The key is to make a case for it that he or she can understand and relate to. That may sound tough, but here’s the good news: you don’t have to trick or force them into it. Instead, help them find a volunteer or service opportunity that engages the interests they already have. Specifically, here’s what we suggest:
First, talk with your student about his or her interests, passions, and values.
Ask what he or she wants to learn more about, whether it’s a career, hobby, or segment of society. Try some hypotheticals to get your student talking: If you could help anyone in the world, who would it be? How would you help? This line of conversation will help your student articulate priorities, values, and possible types of volunteer work—does your student want to teach, help build a house, cheer patients up at the hospital?
Second, show your student how the particular skills he or she already has are valuable and can be used to help others.
For example, if your student is a talented athlete, explain how sports can help build trust, bridge cultural gaps, and teach cooperation and teamwork. Volunteering as a coach, referee, or program assistant for a sports outreach program could be just the ticket.
Third, once you’ve discussed your student’s interests, skills, and priorities, identify organizations in your community that share them.
Talk to your student’s guidance counselor to find out about the school’s partner organizations; also, speak with religious and other local leaders to learn about their initiatives. Alternatively, you can use sites like http://www.volunteermatch.org/ to find local ways to lend a hand.
Next, check the websites or call the offices of the organizations you’ve identified to describe your student’s interests and find out what specific opportunities are open to your student. Make a detailed list with the timing, location, requirements, and demands of each volunteer opportunity.
Finally, sit down with your student to evaluate the lists you made based on scheduling, interest level, and appropriateness or safety concerns.
Signet Education has a long-standing commitment to volunteer work, and we welcome you to read about our education-related volunteer initiatives here. Feel free to get in touch if you'd like to join one of our existing initiatives, or if you'd like to connect us with an opportunity that's special to you!