The countdown to summer break is on. If your teen doesn’t need to work, summer break means sleeping in, hanging out by the pool, or enjoying extra time with friends. My sleep-deprived adult self thinks a couple months with no responsibilities sounds pretty good.
However, there’s so much more that teens and young adults can do over their summer break to engage in their communities and learn about the world. They might miss out on some extra pool time or binge watching Game of Thrones. But, working to meet real needs in our communities is a meaningful experience with rewards that stretch far into the future.
Research shows that teens who volunteer are more likely as adults to have a strong work ethic, to volunteer as adults, and to vote. Teens working without pay build leadership skills and work experience, and that doesn’t look bad on a college application either.
There are some great summer programs for teens statewide. For a few of those listed, the 2015 summer application process is complete, but now is the time to start thinking about next year, too! Here are just a sampling of ideas:
- Durham YouthWork Internship Program: This City of Durham program connects Durham youth ages 14-21 with internship opportunities at various city and county departments as well as in the private sector. The recruitment process begins each February, and the best-qualified applicants are referred to employers. Upon employment, the program offers all youth a one week course to improve employability skills.
- Youth Summer Service Week: This annual program provides week-long service opportunities for rising 9th through 12th graders, focused around a specific community need or theme. Supported by sponsors, YSSW provides supervised service projects, leadership training and education about issues like housing, hunger, poverty and the environment.
- Wake County Public Libraries’ Teen Leadership Corps: Wake County Public Libraries coordinate a leadership, learning and service program for kids in grades 6-10. Opportunities vary by location.
- Local Youth Councils: The Cary Teen Council is a volunteer organization that aims to instill in teens the core values of leadership, accountability, and a heart for service. With a number of different programs and events, teens can participate in volunteer and leadership opportunities. The Raleigh Youth Council offers high schoolers the chance to engage in local government, community service, fundraising and recreation. Members participate in special events like Youth Legislative Assembly and State Youth Council Conferences, serving as advocates for their peers.
- Local Museums: The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences provides several opportunities for teens to volunteer and learn about the museum. Junior Volunteers (grades 9-12) work over the summer to share their knowledge of science with museum visitors. Junior Curators (grades 8-12) assist in the care and feeding of live animals, support natural history educational programs and participate in Museum special events. Café Coordinators (Grades 10 & 11) are responsible for hosting the Museum’s monthly Teen Science Cafes, including working with presenters and managing logistics. Marbles welcomes volunteers in 7th grade and above to help with a number of tasks in the museum.
- Area Hospitals: Most area hospitals offer volunteer opportunities for teens. WakeMed offers structured placements for ages 16-18, as well as Health Career Pathfinders for those 14-20. At Rex, students 14-18 can apply for the VolunTEEN Program, which lets teens volunteer and explore careers in the medical field.
- Habitat for Humanity Summer of Service: Youth ages 16 and up can participate in Habitat Wake’s alternative summer break leadership program, where they will work to build houses, gain new skills, get exposure to community leaders and learn about non-profits.
If you have a teen heading into summer break, encourage them to get off the couch. And, while you’re at it, volunteer yourself and make a difference in our community.
Sara Lang has worked in North Carolina politics at the state, federal, and local levels for more than 15 years. A communications consultant, she lives in Cary with her husband, two young children, and a pampered dog.