Volunteering can pay off


With the economy still down, summer jobs for teens are even harder to come by. According to CNN Money, teen employment was down 40 percent last June.

As we get closer to the end of the school year, many teens are considering volunteering as an alternative to jobs.

According to the United States Department of Labor, the number of volunteers has decreased 2.4 percent over the last four years, and many organizations still need volunteers for the summer.

For other articles about finding summer jobs, see Summer jobs for teens: Difficult but maybe not impossible from the TC Daily Planet and
Teen job market worst on record from ThreeSixty

“I like the way I feel when I am helping out people that are going through hard times,” said Woodbury High School junior Lexie Gutzmann.

Gutzmann volunteers at “Project Home,” a program run through her church that helps to feed and provide a home for the homeless. She and her sister help with food and play with kids.

List of volunteering opportunities
By Elizabeth Straub, of Woodbury High School

There are tons of volunteer opportunities out there for teens. Check these out.

For teens who love the outdoors

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources posts volunteer opportunities for each season and for each region of Minnesota on their website, www.dnr.state.mn.us. Opportunities range from Mississippi River clean-up to gardening to document research.

For animal lovers

The Animal Humane Society offers volunteer spots to teens 14 and older. If 14- or 15-years-old, teens need to be accompanied by an adult for all orientations, trainings, and service.

Volunteers can help with adoption support, foster care, fundraising, or training animals and are required to volunteer a minimum of two 2-4 hour shifts per month. For more information, go to www.animalhumanesociety.org

For teens who love to build/architecture

Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds housing for people in need, accepts teen volunteers with adult supervision and after an orientation session. Volunteers can work almost anywhere in Minnesota for as much as they want (one day, several days, or regularly). A typical summer volunteer day consists of doing repairs, painting, and landscaping from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information call the St. Paul Volunteer Coordinator at (612) 305-7114 or go to www.hfhmn.org

For teens who enjoy helping senior citizens

Meals on Wheels is an organization that provides food to people who can’t make or buy it themselves. There are 37 separate programs across Minnesota that all deliver meals, do kitchen work, and office work. For more information, go to www.meals-on-wheels.com

Nursing homes across Minnesota need volunteers to deliver mail, assist with activities, lead groups, and help with special events and projects. To find one near you, go to www.nursinghomeinfo.com

For teens who love working with kids

The Make A Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to grant wishes to critically ill children. It offers internships to high school students and college students interested in fundraising, public relations, accounting, and human resources, and much more. To apply, visit minnesota.wish.org

The YMCA needs volunteers for day and overnight camps, child care centers, youth programs, and community events. Contact your local YMCA for more information or go to www.ymcatwincities.org

For teens who love to read

Public libraries are also a good place to volunteer. Volunteers may help with tutoring, checkout machines, relabeling library materials, reading programs, library displays, and more.

The St. Paul Public Library offers volunteer opportunities to teens 12 and older, www.stpaul.lib.mn.us

The Hennepin County library system has spots open for teens too, www.hclib.org

And the Washington County library system has volunteer opportunities as well, www.co.washington.mn.us

Dakota County offers a “Volunteens” program for summer volunteering, www.co.dakota.mn.us

Check these websites for more information or go to your local library.

For teens interested in the medical industry

Children’s Hospital offers a summer-long volunteer program for teens 14 and older at hospitals in West St. Paul, St. Paul and Woodbury. Volunteers can apply to a variety of areas — in-patient and epilepsy units, clerical support and data entry, pre-surgery program, sibling play area, outpatient clinic playroom, etc. Volunteers must complete an orientation and interview and have up-to-date immunizations. For more information, check www.childrensmn.org

United Hospital has five two-week, all-day camps for teen volunteers ages 14 to 18 who complete an application and have a tuberculosis screening test. Volunteers help patients, their families and friends at the hospital. Applications are online at www.unitedhospital.com

For more volunteer opportunities, talk your parents, friends and advisors at your school or contact your school counseling office.

Math and Science Academy sophomore Nicola Mehta also volunteered with kids. She was a side walker at a therapeutic horse ranch for kids with disabilities.

“I got to work with kids and horses at the same time,” said Mehta. “And it gets to be on a college transcript.”

With many teens not able to make money for college, adding to college applications has become another priority.

Kris Roach, director of admissions and financial aid at the University of St. Thomas, said applicants who’ve volunteered show they are well-rounded people.

“We believe developing the whole person is critical and that means admitting students who are well rounded adds a great deal to our community and ultimately adds to the student’s success in this environment and in life,” Roach said in an email.

But teens who volunteer find it has other benefits too.

“Yeah, it is nice if [colleges] look at [volunteer work] because it may look good,” said North St. Paul High School sophomore Kayla Pilarski, who helps coach a youth hockey team. “But I just do it because I like helping people.”

Volunteer work can be personally enriching. With opportunities in different and unfamiliar areas, new – and sometimes hard – experiences are inevitable for volunteers.

While working at the therapeutic ranch, Mehta and her co-workers helped a girl with a brain tumor. When she didn’t return, they weren’t sure what happened to her. “It’s the not knowing [that’s hard],” Mehta said.

However, volunteer work can be fun. Opportunities are so varied that volunteers can choose something that interests them and that they will enjoy.

“I love hockey and helping people out, especially helping kids,” said Pilarski. “And I have such a great time with the people I coach with.”