Volunteering helps the community and is a great opportunity for teens to reach out and gain some leadership experience. For incoming freshmen in high school, it is the perfect time to start the first step in becoming involved in your local community and set yourself up for the opportunity to gain leadership experience. For incoming freshmen, I recommend attending your school’s club rush. Every school has different clubs with different unique opportunities. There are some common service-based clubs that most schools have that you should be on the lookout for.
Key Club International is a student-led volunteer club that has a large community across the nation that is linked together through social media and division-held events. For those in the SoCal area, the key clubs come together to attend the Fall Rally at Six Flags and decorate a float at the Rose Bowl Parade. Key Club has its own student board with positions like Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, President, Historian, and more that are great chances to gain leadership experience.
Another amazing club is the Red Cross Club. The members of this club serve under the internationally recognized American Red Cross. All service events serve under the universal goal of humanitarian help. This organization gives the chance to become involved in and lead blood drives and much more.
Besides becoming involved in clubs on campus, the internet is a great source for finding very interesting and unique service opportunities. Search for local events that are looking for volunteers or create your own event based on a personal passion. One of the best parts of volunteering is that you can focus on certain communities or groups that you feel passionate about. Get in touch with different organizations and find out what you can do or present your own ideas!
Also one of my favorite and most rewarding volunteer experiences comes from returning to my old elementary and middle school. Find different events that you may have attended when you were younger and volunteer at them! This could be a science fair or orientation. Either way, get back in touch with your old school and see if there are any upcoming events that you could return back to your old school days to help out.
The universal idea is to find a way of volunteering that is interesting and exciting to you. If you love music, find music-based service events. If you love reading, get in contact with the local library. Regardless, when you are starting your high school experience try to find your passion and use it to find a club or organization that interests you and allows you to give back to the community.
Even though many more volunteer organizations are opening up as we approach the close of lockdowns across the country, volunteering from home can still be convenient for many of us looking to make a difference from the comfort of our own homes. Whether you’re looking to help out because you love animals, or just want service hours for school or approaching college applications, there are opportunities galore. Below, you can find a few opportunities for volunteering from home for animal lovers!
eBird is run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and is based around tracking avian data around the country, to better support threatened bird populations. Even if you’re a first-time bird watcher, the lab offers tons of incredible resources to make the experience fun and rewarding! Plus, you’d be contributing your data to the largest citizen-run data science project in the country. You can find them at https://ebird.org/home. (Full disclosure- I myself have not volunteered with this particular project, so I won’t be able to field any questions about it. Apologies!)
2. Comfort for Critters
Comfort for Critters is an organization that focuses on providing comfort and care for abused animals in pounds and shelters across the country. If you can sow, knit, or crochet, you can help out by making blankets for the animals- if not, they have easy-to-follow tie blanket patterns on their website as well. When you’re done, you can mail the blankets to a shelter near you (they have a list of participating shelters on their website). You can also make or color cards for shelter employees and volunteers! Their website is https://www.comfortforcritters.org/volunteer-resources
3. Humane Society
The Humane Society has tons of in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities for older teens! The most popular position is a phone or text bank volunteer- if you choose this, please be sure that you’d be comfortable talking to strangers. Although the choices are a little bit limited, you can rest assured that you will have a real impact through your work with the Humane Society! Find them at https://www.humanesociety.org/volunteer.
Here, I’ve included organizations for teenagers to volunteer from home with- this time, letter writing. Enjoy!
1. Letters Against Isolation
Letters Against Isolation aims to ease loneliness among self-isolating seniors through letters! Volunteers write creative, fun letters or cards, and then mail the cards and letters to addresses they are given. Even though you may have to make a small investment to buy envelopes and stamps, it’s an easy, self-paced way to volunteer! You can find them at https://www.lettersagainstisolation.com/
2. Cards for a Cause
Cards for a Cause aims to ease sadness and loneliness among children hospitalized for a serious or terminal illness through card-writing. There are instructions for writing cards on their website, along with an email address to mail pictures of you working on the cards, so they can verify your hours. When finished, you mail the cards in one package to a given address, from which they are distributed out to individual children. Because the cards are mailed en masse to a single address, your investment for stamps and envelopes will be minimal, making this a great and easy way to volunteer! You can find them at https://cardsforacause.org/make-cards/
3. Soldiers’ Angels
Soldiers’ Angels is a massive volunteer organization, with many different virtual and in-person opportunities, so take a look at their other campaigns! They currently have two letter and card writing campaigns. However, to participate in their variety of opportunities, they do require a $1 per month donation. You can find them at https://soldiersangels.org/
Below, I’ve included three more organizations with which teens can volunteer online! Good luck!
DoSomething.org is another great virtual volunteering platform. The idea here is that you can volunteer from home, on your own schedule, and participate in mini ‘projects’- for example, one project could be collecting a number of nonperishable items for your local food pantry. You must track the hours you spent on the project, and upload pictures of your results- and DoSomething.org will send you a signed certificate confirming your hours! You can find them at https://www.dosomething.org/us
2. Points of Light
Another great platform to check out is Points of Light. Points of Light serves as a database, like VolunteerMatch, for volunteering opportunities in your area, and can also direct you to online opportunities- just toggle the Presence setting to “Remote.” You can find them at https://engage.pointsoflight.org/
3. TED Talk Translator
Do you know a language other than English? Then translating TED Talks might be the perfect volunteer task for you! You are assigned TED Talks in a secondary language, and then write subtitles for them in English, or vice versa- for example, you may have to write English translation captions for a Portuguese TED Talk, or write Portuguese captions for an English one. Even if you only know English, you can transcript subtitles for English TED Talks and review others’ work. The application process to become a translator is a bit tedious, but the work is rewarding! You can find them at https://www.ted.com/participate/translate/transcribe
Whether you need to complete a school requirement or are just looking to spice up your college applications and resumes, volunteering is a huge part of the middle and high school experience. However, in COVID-19 times, finding in-person volunteering opportunities has become very difficult. A reasonable alternative? Virtual volunteering! You can complete your hours anytime, anywhere, according to your own schedule. Below are three great virtual volunteering opportunities for teenagers!
Zooniverse is an online platform, specializing in science-based volunteering through transcription and editing. For example, you could be assigned to a project digitizing marine organism classification cards, or transcripting research vessel records from the 19th century. There’s no shortage of projects available! You can find them at https://www.zooniverse.org/
2. Amnesty Decoders
Amnesty Decoders is an offshoot branch of Amnesty International. The platform utilizes citizen volunteers (like you!) to analyze images, scan text blocks, or sift through documents to find, track, and report occurrences, like harassment, that impinge on people’s human rights. You may also be assigned a research or categorizing role. For example, you could examine pictures of New York City intersections and flag all the cameras you see, so Amnesty can better understand how new facial recognition and camera technology impacts marginalized communities. Amnesty Decoders does not currently have any projects open to volunteers, but you can subscribe to their mailing list to be notified of upcoming projects. You can find them at https://decoders.amnesty.org/
3. Smithsonian Transcription Center
The Smithsonian Transcription Center is another great volunteer option. It also utilizes citizen volunteers to make transcriptions of otherwise illegible documents and recordings in the Smithsonian Archive, in order to make them easier for people with disabilities and impairments to access. For example, you could be in charge of transcripting letters from Charles Perrault to Anne Tapissier, discussing an upcoming art exhibition at the Château de Nemours. To ensure all transcriptions are as accurate as possible, multiple volunteers can work at once on the same page or item, and all transcriptions must be reviewed by a peer. The documents are very interesting to read through! You can find the center at https://transcription.si.edu/