Volunteerism benefits youths in a number of valuable ways

 Volunteer opportunities are everywhere, from school clubs to houses of worship to nursing homes, as well as with a plethora of non-profit organizations. It is heartening to know that many students dive into volunteering whether out of personal interest or to fulfill a required number of community service hours. Besides adding a punch to college applications, there are many other rewards for student volunteers.

 One benefit of volunteering is that students may discover or investigate an interest that could lead to a college major or career path. A student who reads to first graders may decide he’d like to become a teacher. Volunteering at a homeless shelter may spark an interest in social work. Guiding seniors through confusing technology might spur an interest in software engineering. In addition, meeting people in charge of the organization or school where he volunteers, gives the student the opportunity to network—meeting people that may open doors for him later.

Other benefits of volunteering with an organization or group is that the student will watch and learn from leaders, grow her team working or leadership skills, and be mentored in effective work practices. Often volunteering closely mirrors paid work, so for teenagers who have little work experience, volunteering gains them skills that are needed in the job market and builds their resumes. Employers and colleges give high credit for volunteerism—in fact, colleges want to see community service on a student’s application. Volunteering indicates a young person has broadened herself, is moving beyond self, and is willing to work.

A twist on volunteering benefits is that it appears to be good for a student’s health. Research from Hannah Schreier of New York University, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl of the University of British Columbia, and Edith Chen of Northwestern found that teenagers who volunteered over the course of a school semester finished that semester healthier than their classmates who did not perform community service. The volunteering students had “lower body mass indexes, better cholesterol levels, fewer inflammatory markers, and were less negative, more altruistic, and empathetic than their peers.”

One example of students stepping up to help others is a local group of high school students who have been holding weekly music classes at the Boys and Girls Club. After several months of teaching the children holiday songs, they have produced a CD as a fund raiser for the Boys and Girls Club. The fundraising holiday CD will be available at a few Old Town Fort Collins merchants on Friday, November 29. See http://downtownfortcollins.com/ or www.launchphase2.com/ for details.

At this time of Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to recognize volunteering as an opportunity for a student to give back to the community. Hopefully his service will gain him perspective on his own circumstances in relation to others, and leave him feeling fulfilled and gratified at his service efforts.

If your student needs help finding volunteer options, he or she can ask at school or simply Google Fort Collins or Larimer County volunteer opportunities.

Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www. launchphase2.com/ or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students, and success coaching for college students. P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog.