Stu­dent vol­un­teerism can have a pos­i­tive im­pact ... and help pay for col­lege

The Covington News - - EDUCATION - STAFF RE­PORTS news@cov­news.com Vol­un­teer­ing can fos­ter a sense of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity in young­sters, and may even help them fi­nance their col­lege ed­u­ca­tions. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at www.kohlskids.com.

Vol­un­teerism can help young peo­ple grow into well-rounded, re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als. When vol­un­teer­ing, kids can learn new skills, fos­ter new friend­ships and con­tacts, and im­prove both their so­cial and in­ter­per­sonal skills. In ad­di­tion, a 2011 study from re­searchers at the Stony Brook Univer­sity School of Medicine found that peo­ple are gen­er­ally hap­pier and health­ier when giv­ing back to their com­mu­ni­ties. The study even rec­om­mended that health care pro­fes­sion­als rec­om­mend vol­un­teer­ing to pa­tients 12 and older, with the be­lief that help­ing oth­ers pro­vides sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing al­low­ing vol­un­teers to es­cape their stress and anx­i­ety. And, there could even be a few added bonuses for vol­un­teer­ing!

Stu­dents be­tween the ages of six and 18 who haven’t yet grad­u­ated high school have the chance to be rec­og­nized for their vol­un­teer­ing ef­forts and earn money for higher ed­u­ca­tion thanks to Kohl’s De­part­ment Stores. For more than a decade, the Kohl’s Cares Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram has rec­og­nized more than 19,500 stu­dents, award­ing nearly $4 mil­lion in schol­ar­ships and prizes. This year the or­ga­ni­za­tion will award nearly $400,000 in schol­ar­ships and prizes to more than 2,300 young vol­un­teers who have made a pos­i­tive im­pact in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Find­ing the right ac­tiv­ity is of­ten the most im­por­tant step when fos­ter­ing a love of vol­un­teer­ing in young­sters, and there are a num­ber of great op­por­tu­ni­ties and causes that chil­dren can re­late to.

* Em­brace eco-vol­un­teer­ing.

To­day’s kids are in­creas­ingly eco-con­scious, and con­cepts like re­cy­cling, reusing and con­serv­ing fuel and en­ergy are sec­ond na­ture to many young peo­ple. That makes eco-vol­un­teer­ing a nat­u­ral fit for to­day’s eco-con­scious stu­dents. Chil­dren can vol­un­teer with or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­move trash from beaches and parks; plant trees to es­tab­lish com­mu­nity green spa­ces; work to pro­mote wildlife con­ser­va­tion; or fur­ther re­cy­cling ef­forts in their com­mu­ni­ties.

* Help the needy.

Vol­un­teerism can open young­sters’ eyes to the plight of the less for­tu­nate. Var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cated to help­ing the needy de­pend on vol­un­teers of all ages to meet their mis­sions. From soup kitchens to shel­ters to pri­vate cloth­ing or food col­lec­tion drives, op­por­tu­ni­ties abound for kids who want to help the less for­tu­nate.

* Help the sick.

Many or­ga­ni­za­tions that cater to the sick also pro­vide vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to young­sters. Many kids who vol­un­teer with such or­ga­ni­za­tions are mo­ti­vated to do so by a close friend or fam­ily mem­ber’s bat­tle with a par­tic­u­lar ill­ness, but some kids even turn their own per­sonal ad­ver­sity into an op­por­tu­nity to help the sick.

Such was the case with 18-year-old Tyler O’Bri­ant of Tonganoxie, Mis­souri. Af­ter spend­ing more than three semesters of high school in and out of Chil­dren’s Mercy Hos­pi­tal bat­tling chronic bac­te­rial and vi­ral in­fec­tions, Tyler, a 2013 Kohl’s Cares Schol­ar­ship win­ner, de­cided to host a book drive and fundraiser, which ul­ti­mately raised more than $1,150 to pur­chase books and e-read­ers for the hos­pi­tal wait­ing rooms, where young pa­tients now have ac­cess to hun­dreds of books thanks to Tyler’s ef­forts.

* Visit the elderly.

Kids can learn a lot from their el­ders, and many or­ga­ni­za­tions that work with the elderly of­fer vol­un­teer­ing pro­grams for boys and girls. In­di­vid­u­als in group homes or hos­pi­tals of­ten ap­pre­ci­ate vis­its from young­sters, and kids can learn valu­able life lessons in re­turn.

* Tu­tor fel­low stu­dents.

A child who is pro­fi­cient in a given sub­ject can lend a help­ing hand to fel­low stu­dents who need some as­sis­tance. Work­ing to­gether to im­prove grades and school per­for­mance can im­prove oth­ers’ sense of self-worth and in­still a greater sense of ac­com­plish­ment in tu­tors.

Photo courtesy of Metro Creative Con­nec­tion

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