by Elie Nowlis
As teenagers, there’s a lot of things we have to worry about. We have to juggle homework, tests, sports, hobbies, family, and jobs, all while trying to maintain a social life. That’s why the prospect of community service hours can seem so daunting.
Sixty hours is no small number, especially with the threat of not being unable to graduate without them. Many procrastinate until their senior year and have to fill every waking hour with volunteering until they have enough. I encourage you not to do that, for two reasons.
First, it’s just not good to leave important things until the last minute and second, volunteering can actually be fun! To help you out I have compiled a list of some of the most common ways to get service learning hours. Try a couple and find what works best for you, and get them out of the way early.
Nature: If you love being outdoors, you should find volunteer jobs in nature around you . There are many opportunities to clean up your community, including garbage pickups, forest restoration, and trail or beach clean up parties. These events can be found on a number of websites, including Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Washington Trails Association. Arrive to your chosen event wearing clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. They will get muddy. I would strongly suggest rainboots, or old tennis shoes. You may be trimming invasive plants, making gravel trails, or picking us trash. If you don’t like hard work or nature I would not suggest this option. You will most likely be cold, dirty and tired but this can still be a lot of fun, especially if you bring your friends.
Food Banks: If you are interested in working with people, food banks can be a great way to fulfill your hours. Volunteers sort food donations, restock shelves, and help out in general. The University District Food Bank and Ballard Food Bank are just two of the many in Seattle. You can sign up online by going to the website of the bank you’d like to work at. Volunteering at a food bank usually does not require much physical effort, besides picking up boxes of food. They are a great way to give back to your community and directly benefit people’s lives.
Festivals: Festivals and special events are an easy and fun way to get community service hours. There are many that happen throughout the year, including VegFest, the Lake City Salmon Bake, Winterfest at Seattle Center, the Seattle Street Food Festival, and many more. These events are great for people with busy schedules because you can choose which shifts to sign up for, to fit around your life. I have done everything from cooking and cleaning to handing out flyers at these events, and everything in between. It can be really fun to work with new people and be involved in a community event. However, if you don’t enjoy working with people, or large crowds stress you out, this would not be the best fit.
Schools: The two most common ways to volunteer at schools are through tutoring and special events. Many middle and elementary schools offer tutoring programs, and always need teens to help out. These tutoring sessions usually take place after school for a couple hours, and require enthusiastic and focused volunteers. You can also volunteer at special events at schools. These are very similar to festivals, so you can expect to be running a station or helping with set up or pick up. You can usually sign up for these events by emailing the person in charge. That information can be found online or through your high school’s counseling department.
Animal shelters: There are a number of shelters to volunteer at in the Seattle Area. Some of the most common are the Seattle Humane Society, Seattle Animal Shelter, and PAWS. Volunteering at a shelter can be a little tricky, as they usually have an age limit of 16 or 18 and require a commitment for a certain number of weeks or months. However, it can be incredibly rewarding to work with animals. You may be cleaning, feeding, grooming, organizing, or working with potential customers. Yes, animals are cute, but they can also be gross. Slobber, waste, and teeth can be common occurrences, so don’t be surprised if you have to get your hands dirty. You can find information about age limits and signing up to volunteer or their website.
Photos by: Albert Herring, US Mission Canada, Wknight94 (wikimedia)