It is an age-old saying that education is not limited to the classroom. Students gain necessary skills in class, but there is a world beyond where they can discover and learn invaluable lessons.
One of the best ways to let young people broaden their horizons is by encouraging them to take on volunteer work.
Why Should Students Volunteer?
Students have much to gain from getting involved in their community. Ask them about their interests, and encourage them to go into a field that allows them to explore these.
Their mental health will benefit from it.
Studies show that people who have had volunteering experience are more satisfied with their lives. Additionally, those who volunteer more frequently reported to have better mental health. During the pandemic, volunteering may also help counter feelings of isolation.
The youth can find fulfillment and purpose in volunteering while they are in the process of self-discovery. It gives them a stronger sense of self.
They gain a community.
School is one place where students can make friends and nurture healthy relationships. Meeting people through volunteer work, on the other hand, introduces them to individuals from a variety of social backgrounds.
Volunteering allows young people to build friendships through shared interests and passions. If they volunteer in their local community, it will also give them a stronger connection with the people there.
They learn valuable lessons.
Supplementing schoolwork with extracurricular activities related to their studies can enrich their learning experience. For instance, if you are an art teacher, letting your students join creative projects in their local charity may help your students further develop their artistic skills. For college students, they will benefit from doing volunteer work related to their major.
They become more socially aware.
Getting involved helps contextualize the work the students are doing. It leads them to become more aware of the different kinds of people they are working with and why the work they do is important.
Social awareness deepens their understanding of their environment and develops empathy. It also lets them apply concepts learned in school to real-life situations.
They gain better professional opportunities.
Professional services network Deloitte reports that 82% of employers look for volunteer experience in an applicant’s résumé. Ninety-two percent also believe that volunteering hones leadership skills. This is unsurprising, as volunteer work teaches students a wide range of soft skills. Encountering different circumstances, problems, and people daily sharpens their assertiveness, conflict management, creative thinking, and other abilities.
Regular exposure to unfamiliar situations pushes a person out of their comfort zone. Being out of one’s comfort zone opens opportunities to build one’s skillset and become aware of what they are capable of.
Let Them Share Their Experiences
As an educator, you must be proactive in encouraging your students to take volunteering opportunities and guiding them through the process. It is also important to let them discuss their experiences and find out what they are learning.
Positive reinforcement will keep your students motivated. Make sure they know they are seen and appreciated for their hard work. This helps them recognize the value of what they are doing.
Parents and educators share a responsibility to inspire youth involvement in their communities. Be sensitive to the youth, empathize with them, and listen to their ideas.
What’s Next for Your Students?
You may have students interested in pursuing their volunteer experience as a full-time job in the future. You can refer them to places where they may get further training for non-profit work. Examples of this are short online courses for non-profits or coaching with a professional grant writing company.
You can also lead them to further involvement in their communities through platforms like DoSomething.org. This website is specifically geared towards youth-led societal change.
Networks like VolunteerMatch will help look for opportunities in specific locations and service fields. It also allows you to choose between remote and in-person volunteering.
Making Change During the Pandemic
Youth volunteering may seem trickier because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reassure your students that young people are continuing to make a difference in creative ways during this time.
Stanford students Mary Zhu and Amay Aggarwal started the digital non-profit Develop for Good in March in response to the need for tech assistance during the pandemic. The organization matches undergraduate developers and designers to non-profits that need their technical expertise. They reached 25,000 volunteer hours before 2020 ended.
This initiative is proof that students can make a difference wherever they are. Communicate this to them, and support them as they strive for societal change.