Community service can be daunting. Similar to the college process, community service is often put off until we get closer to graduation. Counselors see students as invisible until senior year, and then pounce on them to demand college applications and graduation requirements.
You may be asking, what is community service? Community service requirements vary from school to school. My school, Snowden International, requires students to perform 100 to 150 hours in order to graduate. Community service is when an individual offers a service to the neighborhood or certain nonprofit organizations, like local animal shelters or homeless shelters. Community service is not paid — any form of monetary compensation means it's not community service. But how do we find a location where we can serve?
High school youth often have a hard time finding community service opportunities. Competition with college students, age restrictions and parental requirements all make community service harder to find than it should be. Animal shelters are the usual go-to for high school students. Shelters like ARL Boston and MSPCA-Angell take volunteers seasonally. Unfortunately, these positions tend to have a screening process and a tedious application process that can make it difficult for students. The competition with veterinary-students-in-the-making makes it nearly impossible to snag a spot. However, there are plenty of places to volunteer around Boston!
First, did you know that you can get community service hours from your job? Oftentimes, unpaid work or community-oriented jobs will count as service hours. These opportunities don’t come along all the time, so it’s always a good idea to ask your employer. Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, offers community service hours for teens in Boston on an application basis. The application opens in the fall of each academic year.
Also, local shelters will always take in volunteers! Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in South End, accepts volunteers year-round. You can find flexible hours and self-schedule as an individual volunteer, and often you get free snacks too! Serving as an individual volunteer builds confidence — you can’t rely on your friends to pull the weight for you. On their website, there is a short application. After it is reviewed, you’ll be given an account to schedule yourself as a volunteer. Most volunteer options are doable as a teen, and there is always a supervisor available to assist with questions and teach you new tasks.
At Rosie’s Place, there are two main options for youth volunteers in the kitchen: preparing and serving food or assisting in the food pantry. Youth can also help sign in visitors. In the kitchen, I alternated between washing dishes in the back and serving and cleaning up in the front.
Surprisingly, community service is broad enough to find an opportunity in the area you’re interested in. Community service gives a sense of responsibility to the volunteer. Having people dependent on your work makes you appreciate the features in our communities that we usually overlook. Animal shelters are super-competitive to even get an interview, so if you’re in a time crunch, applying to a local shelter is your best bet. Local shelters offer less-rigid hours, and more individuals are able to register as volunteers.