Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Ideas for Youth: Why Giv­ing Back Mat­ters

The Miracle - - Youth - By: Mar­i­lyn Price-Mitchell, PhD

If you are search­ing for com­mu­nity ser­vice ideas for chil­dren, you may be hop­ing to help them: 1) Meet school or scout­ing ser­vice re­quire­ments; 2) Build pos­i­tive re­sumes for col­lege; and/or 3) De­velop into more em­pa­thetic and car­ing young peo­ple. What­ever the rea­sons, it’s help­ful to un­der­stand why learn­ing to give back to oth­ers is vi­tal for pos­i­tive youth de­vel­op­ment and how par­ents, schools, and com­mu­ni­ties play an im­por­tant role. With the right com­mu­nity ser­vice op­por­tu­ni­ties from kinder­garten through high school, young peo­ple can grow from an un­der­stand­ing of how they fit into so­ci­ety to how they can help solve so­ci­etal prob­lems. This de­vel­op­men­tal process grows em­pa­thy and fos­ters chil­dren’s iden­ti­ties as en­gaged cit­i­zens, the topic of To­mor­row’s Change Mak­ers: Re­claim­ing the Power of Cit­i­zen­ship for a New Gen­er­a­tion. How do young peo­ple learn to make com­mu­nity ser­vice a way of life rather than some­thing ex­pected or re­quired of them? The three most im­por­tant ways chil­dren and teens learn to ex­press their car­ing for oth­ers and evolve to­ward ac­tive cit­i­zen­ship is through: • Re­spon­si­ble ac­tions • Lead­er­ship • In­no­va­tive think­ing Th­ese three ways of car­ing de­velop over time from ele­men­tary through high school. This ar­ti­cle ex­plains each de­vel­op­men­tal phase and pro­vides links to com­mu­nity ser­vice ideas, re­sources, and pro­grams that can help you find the right fit for your child, class project, or ser­vice club. Ele­men­tary School:

Learn­ing to be Re­spon­si­ble In th­ese early years, we lay the foun­da­tion for re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship. Chil­dren learn kind­ness, re­spect, and em­pa­thy in­ter­nal strengths that con­nect them to oth­ers. You can’t just talk about th­ese feel­ings and ex­pect un­der­stand­ing; kids need to ex­pe­ri­ence them. Many pro­grams like scouts, church groups, and ser­vice clubs are places chil­dren learn and ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese pos­i­tive val­ues. But th­ese ideas also need to be re­in­forced at home. How to In­still Com­pas­sion in Chil­dren de­scribes ways par­ents foster th­ese in­ter­nal strengths through prac­tic­ing com­pas­sion and teach­ing kids how to cope with anger.

Char­ac­ter ed­u­ca­tion in the early years helps build strengths like hon­esty, re­spon­si­bil­ity, fair­ness, and com­pas­sion in­ter­nal as­sets that lead to hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing. Th­ese are the kinds of hu­man qual­i­ties that foster re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens, chil­dren who grow up to do­nate to food drives, re­cy­cle their trash, or help dur­ing a cri­sis. Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Ideas for Younger Chil­dren:

Kids Care Clubs – Pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with other kids per­form­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice pro­jects. Spon­sored by gen­er­a­tionOn and Points of Light. Kid World Cit­i­zen – Ac­tiv­i­ties that make young minds go global. 35 com­mu­nity ser­vice pro­jects for kids. One Warm Coat – A na­tional non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that as­sists in the do­na­tion of coats. Start a Snow­ball – In­spires chil­dren to en­gage in do­ing good. Offers grants to kids to help them get their pro­jects off the ground. 40 Ways Kids Can Vol­un­teer – Lists 40 in­ter­est­ing and unique ways chil­dren can vol­un­teer. Mid­dle Years: Learn­ing to Im­prove the Com­mu­nity In or­der for com­mu­ni­ties to grow and thrive, peo­ple must step up and take lead­er­ship roles. Many chil­dren as young as ten have the ca­pac­ity to in­spire and mo­bi­lize oth­ers. Con­sider the story of Eden Eskaros, who on a visit to Mex­ico no­ticed chil­dren were not wear­ing shoes. When she re­turned home, this ten-year-old en­listed the aid of her com­mu­nity and sent over 1,000 pairs of shoes to her new friends south of the bor­der. When chil­dren learn to im­prove their com­mu­ni­ties, they de­velop the ca­pac­ity to or­ga­nize oth­ers. They ac­quire prob­lem­solv­ing, plan­ning, time man­age­ment, and mar­ket­ing skills. They learn about com­mu­nity agen­cies and how lo­cal govern­ments work. Ex­pe­ri­ences that involve team­work, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and in­ter­ac­tion are train­ing grounds for fu­ture or­ga­nized cit­i­zens, peo­ple who set goals, work within es­tab­lished sys­tems, and mo­ti­vate oth­ers to help. Th­ese kinds of cit­i­zens co­or­di­nate food drives, de­velop re­cy­cling pro­grams, or take part in com­mu­nity-ac­tion com­mit­tees. In the mid­dle years, chil­dren can learn the or­ga­ni­za­tional and lead­er­ship skills that en­able them to take more ac­tive roles in their com­mu­ni­ties as young adults.

C Com­mu­ni­tyit Ser­viceS i IdeasId forf Mid­dle-Age Chil­dren: Gen­er­a­tion on Ser­vice Clubs – In­spires, equips, and mo­bi­lizes youth to take ac­tion through ser­vice clubs, schools, youth or­ga­ni­za­tions, cam­paigns, and youth lead­er­ship ini­tia­tives. Spon­sored by Points of Light.

Kid Ac­tiv­i­ties – Con­tains nu­mer­ous com­mu­nity ser­vice and ac­tiv­ity ideas for youth. Com­pas­sion­ate Kids – Ded­i­cated to teach­ing chil­dren com­pas­sion to­wards the Earth, peo­ple, and an­i­mals.

Youth Ser­vice America – Work­ing with part­ners around the world, YSA helps young peo­ple find their voice, take ac­tion, and make an im­pact on vi­tal com­mu­nity is­sues.

Amer­i­can Red Cross – Offers mid­dle school ser­vice clubs for schools, as well as good in­for­ma­tion about how in­di­vid­u­als can vol­un­teer. The Teen Years: Learn­ing to Solve So­ci­etal Prob­lems

Just as busi­nesses re­quire in­no­va­tion and the abil­ity to re­spond to change, so do com­mu­ni­ties and na­tions. By the time chil­dren reach ado­les­cence, their brains are ca­pa­ble of un­der­stand­ing com­plex is­sues and ex­plor­ing the root causes of prob­lems. In or­der for democ­ra­cies to thrive, cit­i­zens must ques­tion and re­spect­fully de­bate how to im­prove so­ci­ety – how to change es­tab­lished sys­tems that are in­ef­fi­cient or un­just. Ser­vice-learn­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the high school years, offers young peo­ple unique op­por­tu­ni­ties to link what they learn in the class­room to real world sit­u­a­tions in their com­mu­ni­ties. Of­ten, th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences push them out of their com­fort zones to see the world in new ways. But ser­vice-learn­ing need not be con­fined to class­rooms. In fact, op­por­tu­ni­ties abound for fam­i­lies to learn and serve to­gether. Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences are of­ten trans­for­ma­tive for teens and teach them how to think crit­i­cally about the world around them.

HowH TeenagersT B Be­come P Pas­sion­atei t Ab About t Giv­ing de­scribes this trans­for­ma­tive process that in­volves con­fronting moral dilem­mas and re­flect­ing on the val­ues in­stilled dur­ing child­hood. Com­mu­nity ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing ado­les­cence train teens to be­come in­no­va­tive cit­i­zens, peo­ple who see be­yond sur­face causes and ef­fect change in their com­mu­ni­ties and be­yond. Th­ese kinds of cit­i­zens ques­tion why some peo­ple face hunger, de­bate so­lu­tions to clean en­ergy, or in­ves­ti­gate the re­la­tion­ship be­tween race and poverty. Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Ideas for Teenagers:

50 Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Ideas for Teen

Vol­un­teers – Fifty great ser­vice ideas from TeenLife.

Do Some­thing.org – One of the largest or­ga­ni­za­tions for young peo­ple to get in­volved in com­mu­nity ser­vice and so­cial change.

Vol­unTEEN Na­tion – Pro­vides a vast data­base of vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties search­able by in­ter­est, lo­ca­tion and age re­stric­tion.

Vol­un­teer March – Con­nects vol­un­teers with non-prof­its in their com­mu­nity.

Youth Vol­un­teer Corp – Na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion with lo­cal vol­un­teer pro­grams for youth. No mat­ter how young or old, everyone ben­e­fits by par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­mu­nity ser­vice. We have the ca­pac­ity to help chil­dren and teenagers be­come GREAT cit­i­zens com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple who are re­spon­si­ble, or­ga­nized, and in­no­va­tive. Not only will they serve the good of the na­tion, but they will be­come to­mor­row’s eth­i­cal busi­ness lead­ers, par­ents, and work­ers. Par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, and com­mu­nity lead­ers can help kids be­come part of a new gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple pre­pared to take re­spon­si­bil­ity, lead oth­ers, and tackle to­mor­row’s so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges. It’s just a click or a phone call away.

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