Students experiencing difficulty linking up with more established volunteer organizations may want to take an entrepreneurial approach to serving their communities this summer.
With a little creativity and willingness to tackle tasks others find boring or difficult, you can show initiative and hone managerial skills—qualities that colleges value and others appreciate.
Consider a few of these ideas:
1. Establish a donations program. Most nonprofits and churches need in-kind donations such as books, school supplies, or art materials. One local high school student collected used children’s books. She donated most but sold others through a yard sale, the proceeds from which she donated to a nonprofit.
Hint: Use Facebook or other social networking sites to get the word out.
2. Begin a tutoring service. Reach out to organizations serving younger children or look within your immediate community to volunteer your services as a tutor. You can even put your high school foreign language training to good use by working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students and adults.
Hint: Teaching others will help sharpen your own skills.
3. Be an entertainer. Gather friends and create a traveling road show appropriate for venues such as senior centers or summer camps. One local high school band volunteered to be the entertainment at a dance for retarded adults and was wildly received.
Hint: These projects can evolve into great opportunities for a fledgling rock group or for the budding thespians among your inner circle of friends and if you can't perform you can always be the manager.
4. Develop a curriculum. It can be as simple as kitchen science experiments or as comprehensive as one local student’s work on environmental issues which she developed into an educational program for children. Do some research, put together a project, and then approach organizations looking for activities or presentations to supplement their own.
Hint: Summer camps are particularly receptive to scheduling special events or classes for campers.
5. Support a child care center. Read stories, develop art projects, coach easy sports concepts, or create a movement or stretching class. Share your knowledge and skills to enrich the program as well as provide relief to teaching staff over the summer.
Hint: Inner city programs serving low-income children are in particular need of support.
6. Use your computer skills. This can be as complex as offering to make or maintain a website for a local nonprofit or as simple as providing one-on-one support to an early learner or a senior citizen.
Hint: Many seniors want to set up Facebook accounts to connect with old friends and family but simply don’t know how.
7. Write for a local newspaper. Submit an article on how students give back to their communities. Describe your experiences, interview local volunteers or volunteer organizations, or promote upcoming events.
Hint: Published articles may be attached or linked to college applications.
8. Create a blog. One local student developed a blog on her experiences living with cerebral palsy. Her suggestions and thoughtful commentary received responses from all over the country. Blogs are not difficult to create, and they can reflect a range of experiences, interests, or expertise.
Hint: Well-written and maintained blogs can be of great interest to college admissions officers.
9. Adopt a Highway or a Street. Although rules vary by jurisdiction, most states will allow families and small independent groups to adopt highways. And many municipalities have street adoption programs. In Virginia, one member of the group must be 18, but the work crew can have members as young as 10. The adopting group will be asked to make a commitment to pick-up litter several times per year from an assigned segment of highway in return for training, equipment, and trash bags.
Hint: Come up with a creative name for your group and write about your experiences or the kinds of trash you’re gathering (see numbers 7 and 8 above).
10. Develop a product to support a cause. A couple of years ago, a local student used her sewing skills to make simple sundresses she marketed over the internet. She designed the dress, set up a website, obtained fabric donations, and solicited help from friends. All proceeds were donated to charity.
Hint: This young lady had no trouble getting into college.
11. Provide services for shut-ins. There are folks in your community who could use extra help but can’t afford to hire a professional service. Offer to be a companion, do light housekeeping, run errands, walk the dog, pull weeds, or organize the garage.
Hint: You can support your volunteer effort with a paid enterprise marketed to those interested in “renting a kid” in your neighborhood.
Some activities can have a life beyond the summer. They can evolve into long-term service learning projects or new clubs at school.
Be creative and industrious, but feel free to have a little fun too.