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A Student's Guide to Community Service

Ideas and information on how young people can help make their communities better places to live.

The Prudential Insurance Company of America
751 Broad Street
Newark NJ 07102-3777
www.prudential.com

 

An abstract drawing of teens holding hands.

©2007

In this fast-paced world, it's surprising there'stime for you to attend classes, do homework,take part in extracurricular activities, and stillmanage to relax and have fun with family andfriends.

Yet despite busy schedules, many young people like you are concerned about what's going on in their neighborhoods and communities, and are looking for ways to get involved. Here are some facts:

  • In a survey of nearly 1,000 young people commissioned by Prudential, 95 percent of those interviewed said they felt it's important for people to volunteer.
  • Almost two-thirds of those respondents said that individual responsibility is the best way to address community problems.
  • 67 percent indicated that they devote some of their time to volunteer activities.

A picture of two girls and one guy smiling.Why Volunteer?

Why are so many students interested in serving their communities? Because they want to:

  • Make a difference
  • Develop new skills
  • Prepare for college
  • Explore career paths
  • Have fun working with friends
  • Feel good about themselves

Although the efforts of one person may seem small, every act of service can have an important impact on someone ... and millions of individual volunteers can create a revolution of sorts. Whatever your reason for volunteering, once involved, it's easy to get hooked - to "catch the spirit" of community involvement. Volunteering can expand your horizons and become a satisfying, lifelong commitment.

 

What's Right for Me?

You may make an instant decision to volunteer in your community. But don't be hasty in selecting a project or organization. First, take time to think about what problems or issues in your neighborhood or community concern you.

Then, as you search for the "right" volunteeractivity, ask yourself:

  • How much time do I have to commit?
  • What talents or skills do I offer?
  • What do I want to get out of my involvement?
  • Will I enjoy this type of service?

There are many reasons to volunteer. But one should be universal - volunteer for something you can enjoy.

Don't limit your thinking. You may want to volunteer in the structured environment of a large organization, or you may prefer the more informal "family" feeling of a smaller group. Perhaps you want to create your own volunteer activity by engaging your friends or family, or maybe just work alone on a project. When you've selected or narrowed your volunteer interests, you may want to talk to your parents, friends, a teacher or club sponsor, a counselor, or someone at your church or synagogue. They might have suggestions on how to go about making it happen. Call organizations and local government offices that offer services to the public. Read your local newspaper. Watch and listen to the television and radio news for ideas.

After you've made a choice, commit yourself to it. Give it your energy - and adequate time - to determine if it's a good fit.

 

What Can a Volunteer Do?

This information can help serve as a compass to point you to some of the many possibilities for volunteering. Combine these suggestions with your own ideas and creativity - and go for it.

 

A PRESCRIPTION FOR SATISFACTION

A man delivering books, magazines, flowers and candy.So the medical or healthcare field intriguesyou. Take heart, opportunities abound.Consider volunteering at a local blood bank, amedical clinic for the poor, a nursing home, anemergency medical squad, or a cancer or AIDSfacility. Maybe you'd enjoy entertaining kids inthe hospital, or collecting books and toys tohelp them pass the time. Many youngvolunteers also get involvedin walkathons and other fundraisingactivities to fightmajor diseases, orto provide medicalcare for those whocannot afford it.

ANIMAL MAGNETISM

A girl surrounded by cats and dogs.If animals are your passion, here's a flock ofideas. Check with your local zoo, animal shelteror humane society. Volunteer chores caninclude cleaning cages, feeding and exercisingthe "residents," assisting with adoptions,working in the office, or planningfund-raising events. Or considerraising a guide dog for a blindperson. Perhaps your interestsare more in tune withendangered species.Think about volunteeringat a wildliferefuge or nature habitatwhere you cansteer your commitmentto awarenesscampaigns orfund-raising activities.

YOU'RE READING OUR MIND

A woman reading a story book to a little boy and little girl.If you enjoy reading, you've got a skill that'seasy to share. Community shelters (for thehomeless or abused) oftenhouse children who are ashungry for funand stories asfor a squaremeal. Libraries,children's hospitalsand HeadStart programsmay jump at theoffer of organizedstory hours. On a morepersonal level, you can read to anelderly neighbor or someone who is blind.Or check into a local organization that needsreaders for a "talking books" program.

IF YOUR HEART'S IN THE ARTS

A man and woman dancing.Young volunteers with an interest in the arts canshare those talents, as individuals or in a group.Check with senior centers, shelters, daycareprograms, local parks, or recreation programs.Offer to serve as an usher at a communitytheater or help find stage props and costumes.Or offer assistance at an arts center or a localart gallery. You could present theatrical skits,musical revues, magic shows, concerts or otherforms of entertainment at senior citizen homes,hospitals or other community facilities. Not onlydoes your contribution help keep cash-strappedarts alive in your community, but it also helpsbuild a lifelong appreciationfor the arts and bringsenjoyment to many.

SOME SPORTING GOOD IDEAS

A woman and little girl playing basketball.Share your athletic talent and interest asa coach or coaching assistant in sports orrecreational activities. "Help wanted" signs areoften posted at volunteer organizations servingpeople with mental or physical challenges;YMCA, YWCA or Red Cross chapters; localcivic organizations (like the Elks, Kiwanis,Rotary or Lions clubs); cityparks; and recreation orneighborhood programsfor low-income kids. Theyoften seek volunteersto help outwith Little League,swimming, softball,basketball, soccer,tennis, gymnastics,or otherrecreationalactivities.

APPLY YOUR ABILITIES TO DISABILITIES

A girl in a wheel chair playing baseball; and umpire behind her.Be a special friend to people with mental orphysical disabilities. Not only will your skillscontribute to the programs, but you may helpchange public perception about people whohave special challenges. Volunteer to help withlocal, regional or state Special Olympics competitionsheld in many communities. Local groupsand residential facilities often need volunteersfor field trips to museums and amusementparks, recreation and sports activities, or artsand crafts programs.Contact communitycenters or otherfacilities fordisabled persons,or askyour mayor'soffice foroptions.

PROTECT THE PLANET-RECYCLE

Concern about our environment is serious stuff.And your commitment can start right at home.If you're not doing it now, start recycling yourown newspapers, glass and aluminum. Then getyour neighbors involved. If your school doesn'thave a recycling program, talk with your teachersor principal about getting one started. Thecompany that suppliesyour school cafeteriamight lend a hand in thiseffort. Young volunteersalso have beenknown to recycletires, motor oil,telephone books,greeting cards,Christmas trees andcomputer ink cartridges.

HEART AND SOLE

A woman and girl with a walker racing.Perhaps you don't want to take on the responsibilityof organizing and planning. There areother ways to help your favorite causes. Thereare many activities in which you can let your feetdo the talking - at dance marathons and otherindoor activities or at outdoor events, such asbicycle races, walkathons, and charity runs.

BE A CRIME FIGHTER

A female detectiveSo you have an interest in police work as acareer, or are concerned about crime in yourcommunity. Contact yourlocal police departmentto see if you can helpdevelop or get involvedin a student-watchprogram. How aboutdeveloping a schoolwatch program?Talk with yourprincipal or schoolcounselor about establishing a student patrolthat keeps an eye out for and reports theft, graffitiand other crimes at your school. Or thinkabout educating other young people aboutavoiding drugs, dealing with strangers, orstaying safe on the Internet. Another possibility:volunteer to take part in "teen court" justice systemsthat operate in many cities.

MANY IN NEED, INDEED

A chef carrying a tray of soup.Perhaps you've been concerned about homelessor needy people. Their needs are many - fromshelter to food and clothing. Communityprojects and church-affiliated organizationssuch as Habitat for Humanity need volunteers toconstruct housing for the poor. Volunteer to helpprepare or distribute food at community orchurch-sponsored soup kitchens. A local low-incomehousing project may needsome help in a community garden.Or you can plant and tend your owngarden, and then donate the fruits (orvegetables) of your laborto a local food bank, orsell them to support yourfavorite charity. Many youngvolunteers also have hadsuccess with school or communitycampaigns to collect food,clothing, books, toys, schoolsupplies, eyeglasses, toiletries,backpacks and holiday giftsfor the disadvantaged.

SPREAD THE WORD

A boy presenting that it's bad to drink alcohol.Perhaps you'd like to educate fellow studentsand others in your community about an issuethat's important to you. For example, you couldwarn fellow students about smoking,drug or alcohol abuse, AIDS, or negativepeer pressure. Or you could promoteimportant ideals such asracial tolerance, aclean environment,or traffic safety.You might want toput together aneducational presentationand take it toschools in your area,or launch a generalawareness campaignin yourcommunity.

SPRUCE UP YOUR TOWN

A girl digging dirt to plant some flowers.Here are some earthy ideas to sink your handsinto. Your local parks department maywelcome an offer to plant trees and flowers inpublic parks, along walkways, or in downtownareas. Local environmental groups, landscapingcompanies and the National Arbor DayFoundation often give away tree seedlings.Talk to your principal about ways to beautifyand maintain your school grounds. Or considercleaning up litter on a regular basis fromneighborhood streets, local streams,highway shoulders and other publicplaces. Another idea:offer to help paintover graffiti onschool or cityproperty.

KIDS ARE YOUR THING

A man with a little girl and little boy on his back; playing horseyIf you like helpingother kids, or areconsidering a teachingcareer, volunteeringcan work for you.Schools, churches,libraries and communitycenters often havetutoring or mentoringprograms for youngsters.Local camps,especially those forsick or low-income kids, frequently needcounselors. Other places to consider: children'shospitals, daycare centers, shelters, programsfor "latchkey" kids, homework tutoring phonelines, and Big Brother or Sister programs.Some city or county courtrooms are interestedin activities for children who must come tocourt with a parent; ask about setting up aroom with books and toys, and volunteer tohelp care for these children. If you prefer, youcould organize your own "camp" to get localchildren involved in sports, music, science,theatre, gardening or some other activity.

YOUR OWN SPECIAL BRAND OF HELP

A boy with a lot of books and a book fair sign hanging on him.If you want to do something in your ownspecial way, put on your creative thinking cap.On your own, or with a fewfriends, you can raise moneyfor your favorite causethrough bake sales, carwashes, and garage sales.Or form a volunteeringclub at your schoolthat can work on awide variety ofservice projects.

 

Do's & Don'ts of Successful Volunteering
A handy man carrying a ladder, watering can, hammer and wood.

  • Do be flexible. It is rare to find the "perfect" fit right away. Keep an open mind - you might discover something new that interests you.
  • Do be persistent. Volunteer coordinators are often busy, so don't assume they're not interested in you if they don't call you right away.
  • Do attend orientation meetings. Keep in mind that informed volunteers are the best volunteers. These meetings will help you do the best job possible.
  • Do take necessary training classes. Ask about them before you decide to get involved and be prepared to learn what will be needed.
  • Do be responsible. Show up on time and follow through with your commitments. People will be depending on you.
  • Don't expect to start at the top. You have to work hard and prove your worth before you are given more responsibility.
  • Don't think that volunteering has to be a group effort. You can start your own volunteer program and do it on your own time.
  • Do expect to get plenty of personal enjoyment and satisfaction from your volunteer experiences.

 

Local Resources for Volunteer Ideas

  • Principal, counselor, teacher
  • Churches and synagogues
  • Organizations such as the United Way - and their many affiliates
  • Mayor's office
  • Civic service groups, such as the Elks, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions clubs
  • Local arts centers, community theaters
  • Food pantries, shelters for battered women and the homeless
  • Zoos, animal shelters, conservation groups
  • Hospitals, hospices, nursing homes
  • Residential facilities for disabled persons or abused children
  • Newspapers, television and radio
  • Schools and libraries
  • Local community and volunteer centers

We hope this booklet has given you some ideasfor volunteer service and information on whereto find organizations in need of young volunteers.There is little doubt that your help is needed,whether in your school, your neighborhoodor city, or through your church or synagogue.Match your interests with the many volunteeropportunities available.

If you are still stumped, on the next page is a list of some national service organizations that offer information on youth volunteerism. Write or call them for additional ideas.

Ready, set, go - Catch the Spirit of volunteerism!

Arthur F. Ryan
Chairman andChief Executive Officer
Prudential Financial

 


National Organizations with Information for Young Volunteers

The Prudential Spirit of Community Initiative
751 Broad Street, 16th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
www.prudential.com/spirit

USA Freedom Corps
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Serve.gov

America's Promise
909 N. Washington Street Suite 400
Alexandria, VA 22314
www.americaspromise.org

Points of Light Foundation and Hands On Network
600 Means Street, Suite 210
Atlanta, GA 30318
www.pointsoflight.org
www.handsonnetwork.org

Do Something
24-32 Union Square East
4th Floor South
New York, NY 10003
www.dosomething.org

Network for Good
8615 Westwood Center Drive Suite 1A
Vienna, VA 22182
www.networkforgood.org

Volunteer Match
385 Grove Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
www.volunteermatch.org

Youth Service America
1101 15th Street, N.W. Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20005
www.ysa.org

 

 

This booklet was produced by Prudential Financialin cooperation with the Federal Citizen InformationCenter. It is part of the Prudential Spirit ofCommunity Initiative, which seeks to promotevolunteer service and community involvementby young people. The initiative also includes:

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, an international recognition program that honors young people in middle and high school grades for outstanding volunteer service. In the United States, applications are accepted each fall through participating schools and officially designated local organizations, and awards are presented at the local, state and national level. The top two youth volunteers in each state receive $1,000 awards, engraved silver medallions and a trip to Washington, D.C. Ten national honorees receive an additional $5,000, gold medallions, and crystal trophies. The program has been operating in the U.S. since 1995 in partnership with the National Associationof Secondary School Principals, and also has beenintroduced in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Ireland.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Web site at www.prudential.com/spirit/, featuring news and information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, profiles of outstanding youth volunteers, volunteer tips and project ideas for young people, an electronic newspaper on youth volunteerism, and more.

The Points of Light Youth Leadership Institute, a unique leadership and service training program for high school students. Developed and initially funded by Prudential, the Institute features an innovative curriculum developed by the Center for Creative Leadership and is now administered in communities throughout the United States by the Points of Light Foundation.

For more information, write to:
The Prudential Spirit of Community Initiative
751 Broad Street, 16th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102-3777

For additional copies of this booklet, write to:
Federal Citizen Information Center
Catch the Spirit
Pueblo, CO 81009
1-888-8 PUEBLO

Copyright 2007 Prudential Financial.
Prudential is a service mark of The

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Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ, and itsaffiliates. This booklet may be photocopied provided appropriatecredit is given to Prudential.

 

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