Community involvement is one of the best ways to make a difference and combat issues you deeply care about. There are other benefits too. Students who volunteer have a higher self-esteem, get better grades, gain professional experience, and meet new people. So why are volunteer rates the lowest among 20- to 24-year-olds (18.4 percent)? Teenagers (16- to 19-year-olds) continue to have a relatively high volunteer rate, at 26.4 percent due to their motivation to hang out with friends and score scholarships. But with benefits from lowering stress to boosting self-confidence, volunteering is important to continue for a lifetime. Here are five ways to get involved in your community today, tomorrow, and in the future.
1. Find Local Organizations and Non-profits
Since there are tons and tons of nonprofits, finding a volunteer opportunity is pretty easy to do. Some successful organizations that are national, but have local chapters are the NAACP and Boys and Girls Club of America. The key is to find an opportunity that fits your needs and interests. Visit volunteermatch.org to search and contact nonprofits for volunteer opportunities in your area.
2. Community Events
Signing up for community events is a great way to network with like-minded people and support a great cause. Google your city's community calendar to see a listing of upcoming events in your town. You can even host your own community event. Organize a march for women's rights or even produce a play raising awareness for childhood obesity at the local theater.
Pay attention to national and local politics and vote! That does not mean you have to watch CNN every day and run for Senate (on second thought, the latter would not be a bad idea if you feel you can make a positive difference). Voting, especially locally, directly affects the community. Your vote could make the difference in whether your town has cleaner water or access to the best books in school.
4. Get Involved at School
Schools are often the birthplace of future organizations and leaders. Join a club that interests you most. If you're a graduate, consider returning to your alma mater to volunteer or sit on a career panel.
5. Help Your Neighbor
Helping your neighbor can mean offering free tutoring, interning at a local business, volunteering at a women's shelter or after-school program, or helping a friend.
Volunteer work presents an excellent opportunity to improve your community and prepare for the future. In addition to boosting socializing skills and awareness of local organizations and social issues, students who volunteer get the chance to look beyond their own circumstances and appreciate what others are experiencing. The difference that you’ll make in someone else’s life will make an even bigger difference in yours. So what are you waiting for? Volunteer today!