Four diverse high school students work in community garden with Asian gardener

How to Make the Most of Your Community Service in High School

So you want to do community service in high school. Here's what it's all about and how you can find causes and opportunities that fit your passions.

As a high school student, you likely have a lot of things you want to accomplish, but there’s one important goal you shouldn’t forget about before (or in college): Giving back to society. Community service is one of the most rewarding, edifying, and satisfying experiences you can have in high school, simply due to the level of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and empathy you stand to gain.

Community service is an integral part of high school life. Logging community service hours, reflecting on your work, planning projects, and dedicating your time towards meaningful activities can be a regular part of your daily schedule. Not only does it make you a more competitive student with an impressive résumé, but it’s also a pivotal part of character building, skill development, and collaborative learning. So how do you get started? Here’s a comprehensive guide to getting involved in community service as a high school student.

Finding the right community service opportunity

There are many ways to garner more community service experience in high school. First, you need to make some decisions about what you’re looking for and what works best for you. Given the plethora of pressing social issues in the world, there are many volunteer initiatives you can join locally or nationally—so think about your passions and interests. Some will enjoy spending time with the elderly while others will like taking part in fundraising drives. Some people could spend all afternoon playing with children; others might want to serve meals at a soup kitchen. If you have multiple interests, you can briefly offer your assistance to a variety of activities before you decide on something to commit yourself to long-term.

Do your research

Be sure to do research to find nonprofits that share a passion for the issues that are important to you. It’s fairly easy to use volunteer matching websites and find this information online, but you can also investigate opportunities through your high school, local library, or center of worship. Learn all you can about the organizations that speak to you, what they do, and what you can do for them. Knowing all you can ahead of time means not only will you be more likely to enjoy your work but also to keep an open mind. And make sure you keep an eye out for red flags that could indicate the charity you’re considering is a scam!

Related: Secrets to Finding a Great Volunteer Site

Consider your skills and goals

You can also choose your community service based on your skills, schedule, and future career goals. For example, if you’re interested in the medical field, you should look for volunteering opportunities in hospitals, hospice centers, mental health institutions, or nursing homes. If you love animals, you should gravitate toward programs through veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or zoos. Or if you’re fond of physical activity and fitness, you can take part in a charity run or cleanup drive. If you’re confident in your ability to teach others, you could also take up tutoring or coaching and impart some of your knowledge to others. From helping peers out with their schoolwork, teaching a sport, or running a craft activity for young children—the possibilities are endless!

Organize your own events

Local nonprofits are often willing to collaborate with student-led initiatives. A great way to capitalize on this is to organize your own events and collaborate with the nonprofit, be it within or outside your high school community. If you do plan an event for your school, encourage your peers to get involved too. A big part of volunteering is learning to be a leader who inspires others to volunteer alongside you. Large-scale projects like this can also help you learn how to perform a multitude of social services such as fundraising, planning, organizing, and leadership.

Related: An Easy How–to Guide to Start Volunteering as a Student

Putting your heart into the act

Although it may seem daunting initially, as you become acquainted with the demands and expectations of community service, it will become more enjoyable. You may even begin to look forward to it! Go the extra mile to prove yourself as a dedicated and fruitful volunteer. Achieving this isn’t as hard as it seems—give a little extra time, ask more questions, and be a little bit more engaged. The quality of your work will greatly improve and the people you are trying to help will reap more benefits.

Spend time planning events and activities you want to perform during your time as a volunteer. Then pitch these ideas to your peers and supervisors. Not only will this help you be more aware of your objectives, but you’ll also show more interest and commitment to your work. Success is married to the attitude and drive you have toward accomplishing a goal. The success of your volunteer projects will reflect your own passion and determination, making you the best version of yourself. Being proactive—taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to you and putting yourself out there—is the best way to make your community service a productive and meaningful experience that you can showcase with pride in the coming years.

Preparing for the unexpected

Community service work is typically far from monotonous. These volunteer opportunities are often distinct, remarkable, and wholly unlike anything else you’re doing. Prepare for the unexpected every time you show up. I once went to an institute for individuals with mental illnesses where I had quite a few intense encounters; however, the experience was an emotional and intellectual eye-opener for me. You’ll be stepping out of your comfort zone, but it’s always wise to keep your mind and heart open. In my experience, the community service you undertake will never fail to tug at your heartstrings.

Related: Important Questions Before You Volunteer, Answered

Although it can be overwhelming at times to see humanity at face value and accept the rather harsh realities of the world, as a student, have the invaluable opportunity to play an active role in making things better. You can give back to your community and society at large through your efforts. Why suffer from the bystander effect, and not play a part in a global movement in your own unique way?

Health, transportation, and finances are all things that can get in the way of volunteering. That’s okay! Check out 7 Great Opportunities for Students to Volunteer Online to find out how to get involved digitally.

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About Shivani Ekkanath

Shivani Ekkanath

As a person applying to college this year, I want to chronicle this crazy and unpredictable yet rewarding and fascinating journey so the experience feels less daunting for other students. I'm currently preparing to study Political Science for my undergraduate degree while trying my best to win a battle with the pressures of the IB diploma. I'm a lover of music, debating, reading about current affairs, dancing, baking (not too well), and writing. I'm also an an aspiring journalist and hope to attend Columbia University one day and work for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.


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