Generation Z is about a quarter of the U.S. population, and are starting to make a difference in our communities and around the world. A wealth of studies show just how valuable contributing to causes can be for kids. Not only are those who regularly volunteer their time half as likely to turn to get in trouble, but they tend to -- not surprisingly -- do better in school.

These indicators should be enough to encourage schools and parents to initiate opportunities for children and teens to devote their time, energy, and creativity to their local community. Finding a cause isn't tough; tons of opportunities exist and organizations need, socially conscious and motivated volunteers.

Sep'Tish Riley believes volunteering changed her life. "I realized how many skills I was gaining at the same time helping others. The Show Me Cost Rica Project project taught me to become more flexible, open-minded, and self-aware in my daily actions to remain a positive role model for the students who would come after me. After traveling to Costa Rica during my Junior year of high school, I was inspired to study abroad in college. After graduating from Vashon High School, I began college at Kalamazoo College where I studied abroad in Costa Rica for a whole trimester. The volunteerism that was instilled in me during this project inspired me to start a volunteer English club for Costa Rican youth. I will be graduating from Kalamazoo College this year and without a doubt, this project helped open my mind to what I was capable of achieving as a leader at a young age."

Kenan Pala, a San Diego middle schooler, decided enough was enough when it came to his region's homelessness problem. With support from his closest influencers, he not only raised funds and arranged meals for shelters, but he broke a world record for the most cereal donation at a single event.

Piggybacking on his remarkable success, Pala took his passion a step further in early 2017 and founded Kids4Community, a nonprofit to rally others like him into service. Not only does his story illustrate just how worthwhile volunteering is, but it also proves how far-reaching one child's dreams of a better world can be.

But not all kids realize that they can make a mark. Consequently, they deserve an education at home and in the classroom about the moral, ethical, and personal importance of helping others. Below are some great ways to start giving kids perspective on their innate power to create positive social change.

1. Allow them to see the realities of the world.

The world isn't all celebrity memes and cat videos. In fact, its underside can be quite shocking. Many children have no concept of their good fortune to live in a comfortable home rather than on the streets or in other dangerous places.

While it's not necessary to scare children, moms and dads can still help them gain a better perspective on how they can use their resources to assist their less fortunate peers. Serving a meal at a local soup kitchen can open children's eyes to the human needs that exist right in their own backyard.

2. Work with children to discover a cause they can get behind.

Children, like adults, have their preferred activities: sports, reading, technology, academics, music, arts, politics, animals. Parents and teachers can initiate discussions to figure out how young people can transfer their leanings into volunteering activities.

A child interested in the lives of others could focus volunteer energy on chipping away at poverty and hunger. Or a teenager with a gift for athletics could work with underprivileged youngsters to teach teamwork and sports skills.

3. Encourage your child to start a school-based community service organization.

Some schools actively embrace student-run organizations. Even if your child's school doesn't, urge him or her to see whether it's a possibility. Most schools have, Red Cross Clubs are available in middle and high schools, allowing students to learn leadership skills while participating at local American Red Cross chapter events and on related projects. Likewise, Key Clubs run by dedicated school administrators or instructors can become catalysts for volunteering and fundraising.

4. Get the family involved in the process.

Children emulate their parents' and siblings' actions. If the whole family gets involved in a volunteer project, it increases a child's natural interest in social causes. In fact, a young person whose family volunteers are nearly two times more likely than another kid to do likewise.

5. Provide children with home responsibilities.

Volunteering begins in the home with chores. Not only does taking out the garbage, doing the laundry, or washing the dishes teach responsibility and manners, but it boosts self-esteem. Studies show that kids who grew up with work of their own exhibit improved confidence and time management skills.

6. Make volunteering a creative experience.

Craft projects are an excellent way to volunteer because they allow even introverted children and teens to participate. Making handmade cards for seniors and veterans or constructing fleece blankets for hospitalized children may seem like modest tasks, but they make a big impact. Plus, youngsters begin to associate volunteering with positivity, enthusiasm, and fun.

A community does not build itself; that duty belongs to society, especially young people excited to enhance their surroundings. The best way to make the world a stronger, more loving place is by teaching our kids the importance of giving their time and skills to help others.

The Show Me Cost Rica Project's mission is to provide an international learning experience for students in low-income communities. The vision is to use science and entrepreneurship to develop leaders with a global perspective. Over the last 5 years, over 50 students from the city of St. Louis have worked diligently to fundraise over $100,000 to become the first in their families to travel internationally. Our students are social entrepreneurs that offer freshly roasted premium coffee from Costa Rica to help cover the expense of their educational trip. 

Published on: Jan 29, 2018
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