Negative stereotypes about young people are all too common. Adults tend to criticize young people’s lifestyles, attitudes and outlook. But most young people are productive members of society who outperform adults when it comes to volunteering. Fifty-five percent of young people participate in volunteer service as compared to 29 percent of adults.
On Saturday, April 27, youth ages 11 to 18 can get involved in volunteer projects through a Global Youth Service Day event called Youth in Action. Here are a few good reasons why parents and other adults should encourage them to get involved.
When youth volunteer, everyone reaps the benefits. By one estimate, young volunteers contribute more than $60 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Their efforts help cut costs for various service organizations and make those services available to a larger audience.
The larger community also benefits, since volunteerism promotes positive citizenship, encouraging youths to be more engaged in their communities. Youth who volunteer feel more connected to their community, are more likely to show concern for their communities, and more likely to remain or return to their communities. In that way, youth volunteerism contributes substantially to community vitality.
Finally, while volunteerism focuses on helping others, the biggest benefits to volunteering are often reaped by the volunteers themselves. Studies suggest that youth who volunteer just one hour or more a week are 50 percent less likely to abuse alcohol, use tobacco and other drugs, become pregnant or engage in destructive behavior. Youth who volunteer are also more likely to do well in school, graduate and vote.
Teens say the benefits they receive from volunteering are: Learning to respect others; learning to be helpful and kind; learning to understand people who are different; developing leadership skills, becoming more patient, and getting a better understanding of the responsibilities that come with citizenship.
Young volunteers surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics mentioned several ways they were encouraged to become involved:
• They were approached/asked by an organization
• They were asked by someone in a school or organization they were already involved in
• They were asked by relatives or friends
Becoming involved in causes that help other people is an essential component of positive youth development. Volunteering provides social and practical skills that can help young people succeed in life, and get them more engaged in their own communities. Today’s youth lead busy lives, but volunteerism can help them develop in many valuable ways.
Sara Rehmer is a prevention health specialist at RiverStone Health. She can be reached at 651-6466 or Sara.Reh@riverstonehealth.org.