How to find the right fit for my teen's community service?
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
- What are the criteria to graduate?
- How to find a good match for my teen?
- How to help my teen balance everything?
Does your teen view volunteer work merely as a requirement for graduation?
If so, you can explain why it’s important for high schoolers to give back to their community. Not only does it give them valuable work experience, but it also fosters a sense of gratitude and illustrates their personal interests.
College admission boards often look at students’ activities outside of the classroom to get to know them beyond their application essays.
1. WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA TO GRADUATE?
Parents can ask their child’s high school for the rules regarding community service hours. It is usually listed online and/or in the student handbook. In recent years, Palm Beach County public school students have been required to work a minimum of 20 community service hours to graduate. But many scholarships for college, including Florida Bright Futures scholarship, require a minimum of 75 hours.
Community service is defined as non-paid volunteer work with a nonprofit agency. If students lack transportation, their schools may offer volunteer opportunities on campus or through a club.
Students may begin accumulating hours as early as the summer before ninth grade. One rule, for example, limits hours to eight a day so students can’t claim 24 hours a day on mission trips.
2. HOW TO FIND A GOOD MATCH FOR MY TEEN?
Finding a good match for your teen can be overwhelming with thousands of nonprofit organizations registered in Palm Beach County. So where to start?
Organizations, such as United Way and VolunteerMatch, can help narrow your search. They gather information on volunteer opportunities throughout the county and provide details on the mission, audience and location.
“I always encourage young people to find something they are passionate about and to volunteer doing something in that field," says Nancy Stellway, executive director of Take Stock in Children. "That way, it will not feel like just another chore or obligation. In fact, it could also one day lead to a successful, fulfilling career.”
Donna Pulda, vice president of volunteer services for United Way of Palm Beach County, adds: “If they love animals, an animal shelter would be a great start. If they have had a family member or friend afflicted with an illness, they might want to volunteer for an organization that deals with that type of illness. Sometimes, they just want to volunteer as a group with their friends and where their friends are volunteering.”
Another resource for matching students with volunteer opportunities is Achieve Palm Beach County, which helps graduates succeed after high school.
3. HOW TO HELP MY TEEN BALANCE EVERYTHING?
Many high school students may not know how to squeeze in community service between school work, jobs, social activities, and possibly religious organizations, sports and family obligations.
“It can be challenging to add volunteering or anything else to their plates without adding stress,” Stellway says.
Parents can help their teens develop time-management strategies, such as creating a schedule or identifying priorities using a matrix. This process can illuminate how much time they spend on unimportant things, such as surfing the internet or playing video games, which can free up time for community service.
“They can choose to volunteer one Saturday a month at different organizations," Pulda says. "This gives them an opportunity to find just the right volunteer opportunity, the right fit and the right organization.”
• Donna Pulda, vice president of volunteer services, United Way of Palm Beach County
• Nancy Stellway, executive director, Take Stock in Children
• School District of Palm Beach County
• Achieve Palm Beach County
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The School District of Palm Beach County
Community service/volunteer — information about community service requirements for students, as well as opportunities to volunteer561-434-8000 Website Email
United Way of Palm Beach County
A variety of local support and services, including programs to fight hunger, decrease homelessness, help children graduate and assist children with special needs and support mentoring561-375-6600 Website Email