A child who is passionate about changing the world, creative and tenacious in problem solving, and who inspires and galvanizes others with his or her spark is one of the most powerful tools for change. Yet, youth volunteer opportunities are largely neglected or underutilized. Investing in the creation of avenues for kids to engage in civic service at a young age is imperative, so that they may instill the value of altruism, develop meaningful interpersonal skills, and become active participants in their local and global communities.
The Brainerd Lakes Area is filled to the brim with both fun lakes and devoted nonprofits. United Way’s Get Connected website offer opportunities for students to pinpoint nonprofits that are refined to suit their individual interests and skills as well as receive personalized updates and notifications about volunteering. Accessibility and awareness of these opportunities, especially in kids’ given interest areas, allows them to delve and grow in community activism while within the sphere of their hobbies and areas of enthusiasm.
Not only do we as Minnesotans have the friendliness of the Mid-West, but are the reigning champs of kindness with our trademark Minnesota Nice. We thrive on incorporating genuine compassion into our everyday lives as illustrated Brainerd High School graduate, Sarah Wiger. “Volunteering at Essentia has immensely strengthened the progression of my character and individuality by giving me the courage to advocate for those who are physically, mentally, and/or socially oppressed.” Civic engagement introduces kids to issues and perspectives outside of their phones or comfort zones and compels youth to realize the the layers within their community and the impact an individual can make.
No matter what the scale, youth who contribute to the welfare of society naturally learn and develop skills of leadership and teamwork, thus granting them valuable assets to utilize throughout adulthood; skills traditionally neither learned nor emphasized in classrooms. Sarah Wiger is thrilled to have gained invaluable training while volunteering at Essentia. “Hospital volunteering has been quite an enriching opportunity since I intend to study a career in medicine, and therefore have been able to experience much of the genuine aspects of healthcare, unaffected by the altered form of medicine the media presents.” Other sought out qualities in jobs matured through volunteering include public speaking, interpersonal relationships, and organization among many others.
Service is instrumental in manifesting standards of humility and benevolence in children. By exposing them to the joy and value of helping others, it engenders a commitment to contribute to the community throughout their adolescence and into adulthood.
There are limitless ways to spur youth civic engagement. Here are a few ways you can help!
Nonprofits: Actively reach out to kids. Host booths at sport games and school orientations. Let teachers know of internships and opportunities available so they may disseminate that information to students. Host events that have various volunteer jobs available for youth of all ages to participate in. Engage service clubs such as K-kids (3rd and 4th graders), Builder’s Club and Antler Club (middle school), and Key Club and Interact (high schoolers). A steady social media presence will also get you more exposure to youth. Promote large group events as kids like to volunteer with their friends. Moreover, kids 15 years and younger need their parents to give them a ride which is another reason to have group tasks that parents can be included in.
Help your kids find volunteer opportunities that fascinate them and get them excited about engaging in the community and start early! Satisfy their interest in the outdoors and animals by bringing them to the Northland Arboretum or Foothills Animal Rescue; for future doctors and masters of the game Operation, guide them to Essentia to get experience in the fast pace and excited environment of the hospital; connect generations by bringing them to engage with the elder residents at the Heritage House of Pequot Lakes.
Youth: Networking is key! Ask your parents, neighbors, teachers, etc, if they know of fun and gratifying places to volunteer. You may find a lifelong interest or even career. Having vast volunteer experience, particularly if in your given interest field, is gold for college and scholarship applications. Not to mention, you’ll gain desirable skills for future jobs. Get a group of friends together and collectively make change in your community while having a great time with your friends!
Each of the nonprofits mentioned in the article are on our Get Connected website. Check out our Get Connected blog post to learn more about how to Get Connected to volunteer opportunities in your community!