Adult volunteers fuel our programs and help our young people thrive. But did you know volunteering is also a great way for young people to unlock their superpowers? (Scroll down to find out about a youth volunteering opportunity going on at Camp Fire right now!)
Yep, all the research says volunteering delivers big benefits to young people—and their communities! High-schoolers alone contribute more than $5 billion worth of volunteer services annually. That’s 230+ million hours of effort, energy and teen-smarts poured into neighborhoods across the country every year.
Besides just feeling good about giving back, kids who give their time and energy to help others get some substantial life perks. Studies show altruistic young people get a self-esteem boost from volunteer activities. Youth volunteers are half as likely to experiment with risky behaviors as those who don’t. Volunteering has also been tied to higher school engagement and better graduation rates.
While Camp Fire is focused on helping kids live their best lives today, it’s important to note that the gains of youth volunteering carry into adulthood. Kids who give back go further in post-secondary education and even earn more as young adults. Unsurprisingly, if you form a volunteering habit while young, you’re going to keep on volunteering as you age, too. Which is good news, because adult volunteers have lower mortality rates and are less likely to be depressed. Volunteering can even help improve brain elasticity for those at risk for Alzheimer’s!
But even with all these great reasons to volunteer, only about 29 percent of teenagers do. That’s why Camp Fire is teaming up with Youth Service America (YSA) to celebrate Global Youth Service Day: April 12 through 14. YSA has incredible resources to help young people organize their own service projects, become a community organizer, start a voter registration program, and more. (A whole lot more!)
Want to get a kid in your life started volunteering? You can! Many Camp Fire councils have opportunities to help kids give back. For example, in partnership with YSA’s Youth Volunteer Engagement grants generously supported by Disney, Camp Fire is hosting a series of volunteer camp clean-up events at various camps across the country. Contact your council to see what volunteer activities are taking place near you. Prepping camps for summer is the perfect combination Global Youth Service Day and Earth Day activity—and a great way to get those youth volunteer benefits brewing!
- Grimm, Robert T., Jr., and Nathan Dietz. 2018. “Good Intentions, Gap in Action: The Challenge of Translating Youth’s High Interest in Doing Good into Civic Engagement.” Research Brief: Do Good Institute, University of Maryland. https://publicpolicy.umd.edu/sites/default/files/Good%20Intentions,%20Gap%20in%20Action_Do%20Good%20Institute%20Research%20Brief.pdf
- Sparks, Sarah D. 17 July, 2018. “Volunteerism Declined Among Young People.” Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/07/18/volunteerism-declined-among-young-people.html
- Reuland, Erin. “How Volunteerism Helps Teens Achieve Job Success.” Ymca.net. http://www.ymca.net/backpack-buzz/how-volunteerism-helps-teens
- Moorfoot, Leung, Toumbourou and Catalano. 2015. “The Longitudinal Effects of Adolescent Volunteering on Secondary School Completion and Adult Volunteering.” International Journal of Developmental Science. 9(3-4): 115-123. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27458548
- Jinho and Morgül. 2017. “Long-term Consequences of Youth Volunteering: Voluntary Versus Involuntary Service.” Social Science Res. Sep: 67: 160-175. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5612372/
- “Three Major Benefits of Volunteering,” 11 January 2018. America’s Promise Alliance. Retreived 26 March 2019. https://www.americaspromise.org/news/three-major-benefits-volunteering