Summer break means different things to different students: earning extra money for tuition or living expenses; catching up on school projects or taking summer classes; or just using the two-month break to relax and forget about books and teachers for a while. For those students lucky enough to have a free schedule during summer break, there are ways to turn your summer into a new and exciting opportunity for volunteering and public service.
Spending your summer break to volunteer can open up a new world of possibilities. From finding a major to contributing to the welfare of your neighborhood, the impact of volunteering can last a lifetime. It’s not for everyone—by definition, volunteering jobs are non-paid—but if you can afford to work for free, it can be an experience that’s worth more than just a paycheck.
- Help around your neighborhood
Budget cuts have made it more difficult for libraries and other non-profit organizations to staff summer programs. Contact your local library or youth center to see if they need volunteers—chances are, they will. Common volunteering jobs include helping run a summer reading program, running or helping with a kids’ summer sports league, or something as simple as odd jobs for the elderly people in your neighborhood. Use websites like Serve.gov to find volunteering opportunities in your area.
- Get experience (and credit!) in your field of study
The benefits of volunteering go beyond making a difference in your community: depending on your major or study program, some public service programs can count for college credit. Talk to your department chair for more information and ideas on how to take advantage of possible volunteer/credit opportunities. Planning ahead and researching the opportunities in your area may help you set up an opportunity that you can start as soon as the spring semester ends.
- Learn more about yourself
The college experience is about more than studying for classes and finding a career; many students view their college years as a time for self-discovery. College campuses can be fertile ground for learning about activism and community issues. Being an active part of your campus can steer you toward volunteering opportunities both on campus and at home, if your campus isn’t close to home. Take a quick inventory of your interests and political beliefs (if you have any) and try to match volunteering jobs with issues you’re passionate about.
Once students graduate and enter the workforce, long summer vacations are often a thing of the past. Taking a chance to explore the world outside of college—and helping make your corner of the world a better place—can get harder after the obligations of a mortgage and paying back student loans arise. Taking the chance to volunteer can teach you more than just what you learn in your classes.