There’s a ton of scientific evidence on the value of volunteering among our youth – from improved test scores and better teacher retention in schools, to improve neural pathways and fewer behavioral outbursts at home. But what are the young people themselves reporting they gain from volunteering? These are the top benefits reported in this Institute of Volunteering Research Study
1) Improved happiness and satisfaction
Young people feel that they have more confidence and self esteem after volunteering. They refine and learned skills through service, such as organization and improved communication.
Volunteers report positive changes in well-being. A recent study by Join In (2014) also reports that “compared to non-volunteers, people who volunteer are considerably higher on the measures of feeling like their life has a sense as purpose, that they are doing something important, feel a sense of pride and that their life has meaning”
Kids also noted improvement in motivating others, working with teams, and resolving conflicts, which are really important traits in any leader. These leadership skills are crucial to developing self-confidence and motivation for the future.
2. Greater maturity and responsibility
Anecdotally, students said they take less for granted in their own lives after spending time volunteering, and it helped them develop awareness around specific causes and issues within society. Students attribute this to being exposed to different lifestyles, ideas, and ways of viewing and being in the world.
Youth who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate and vote. They felt their academic performance and ability to think and act independently was improved(CRAC, 2004). Both of which will serve them well as they move out on their own and enter the workforce.
3 out of 4 young people surveyed think volunteering is a valuable activity that could have a positive effect on their career progression. Also, National Youth Agency (2008) reports that young people felt volunteering “created opportunities to test out different career options, gain practical experience and acquire skills related to specific types of employment” (p5)
“Youth who volunteer just one hour or more a week are 50% less likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, become pregnant, or engage other destructive behavior”-Molly Latham, Area Extension Specialist
3. Better connections with people and community
Feeling of making a difference
Young people also report a greater awareness of, and interest in, the community its issues. They become curious about how to create positive change through their volunteering or social action. Through their experiences, they feel they can make a real difference at the local level and actually have the capacity to make change happen.
Youth volunteering and social action also encourages ‘social connectedness’ and provides opportunities for young participants to interact with other people from different backgrounds. This has shown to help foster positive attitudes, develop empathy, promote a better understanding of other people and encourages young people to learn from one another (Youth Action Network and Centre for Social Action, De Montfort University, 2009)
Volunteering takes students into different communities and exposes them to a variety of social and business needs and issues which they would not otherwise access as part of their higher education. – National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement