High schooler wants to do some good this summer; we're overwhelmed.
January 29, 2014 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Kinetic 3 (15) is incredibly fired up about getting out in the real world and doing some good over his summer vacation. Ideally he'd like to do some hands-on type of volunteering project like Habitats for Humanity, but because he's 15 he's not eligible for lots of cool-looking programs. The guidance department at his school doesn't have many suggestions and so I turn to AskMe. Does anyone know of any multiple-week, hands-on community service projects that accept 15 year olds? He's saving his ice cream scooper money to help pay for airfare from Boston and because he's an intrepid traveler he would love to go somewhere and feel like he's making a difference. As his mom, I'd feel a lot more comfortable sending him to a program that's highly recommended and well-regarded.
posted by kinetic to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I was his age I did a Mission week at our church that was hands-on, geared towards teenagers and not mission-y in the evangelical sense at all. Although we did have worship stuff in the evening. It was only one week though.

The one this year is in Detroit.

Can an adult go with him? You will have a LOT more opportunities for activities if he has an adult from something like Global Exchange's reality tours to Archaeology Opportunities.

I know that googling provides some activities , but I would research them heavily. For example, I did a field survey in South Africa that was very inexpensive and a good experience, but another individual who had come for a couple weeks had found out about the experience through another venue that looked a lot like the Vision Service Adventures* and it was about 3,000 dollars more a person.

* I know nothing about Vision Service Adventures so I can't recommend it or not.
posted by aetg at 5:02 PM on January 29, 2014

When I was fifteen, I spent a summer working in the pharmacy at the local Veteran's Hospital, as a Red Cross Volunteer. This was 45 years ago, and the rules may have changed, but it's worth checking into.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:21 PM on January 29, 2014

I'm not entirely sure what junior is looking for, but maybe have him separate the travel and the volunteering? Assume you mean travel outside the US, most decent or better travel/volunteer combos that I've run across seem mostly to have the volunteers pay cost+ to hangout and do some light manual labor (which the locals do waaaay better). It is a cultural opportunity, but it's usually not lots better than donating a much smaller amount without visiting. There's plenty of talk about this in the Gap Year circles. On the other hand, it might beat some young naivety out of him...

Personally, I'd suggest he go do some volunteering at home this summer, take a small trip somewhere. Then let his 16 y.o. self have some more time to talk with others/research/plan, if he's really dead set on this.
posted by cult_url_bias at 5:59 PM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

does he like the great outdoors? how about helping out our National Parks? there is a Youth Conservation Corps program through our National Parks Service for kids 15-18.

edited to add: it looks like most YCC programs are non-residential but there are two at Yosemite and Yellowstone that are residential.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:02 PM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here are some in my neck of the woods:

Southwest Conservation Corps (Ages 14-18)(Unsure if residency)
"Youth Conservation Crew"

American Conservation Experience ("Young Adults and up")(Residency= camping)
"Conservation Vacations"

Grand Canyon Youth (16 and up but why not try to appeal if history of volunteerism)
"Partners in Science"

Four Corners School of Outdoor Education
"Canyon Country Youth Corps" (Ages 14+)(Paid position/room/board/food)

Good Luck! I'm in Flagstaff if he decides on one from this area; feel free to contact me for local support if needed.
posted by MansRiot at 6:43 PM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I went on an expedition with earthwatch and it was fantastic. They have "teen" expeditions specifically for 15-18 year olds, and you can search by that on that page. The cost of the expedition (though not travel to and from the site) is tax deductible. They expeditions are generally a week or two (so not super-long) and have an educational component as well as the work you do; generally you do scut work for scientists -- counting things, writing things down, taking samples, washing things -- and it's really fun!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:04 PM on January 29, 2014

Washington Trails Association also does Volunteer Vacations, trail work for a week with good food and run by awesome folks. (I used to work for them). They have teen programs and adult programs, which you could do together. Beautiful places, too. They try to pick the most scenic projects for their volunteers. wta.org
posted by grinagog at 7:32 PM on January 29, 2014

As a teenager, I did a volunteer focused program abroad through AFS one summer and a Student Conservation Association service trip another. While I learned plenty with AFS, I don't think we did anything helpful for the community we were in, and it was very expensive to go. With SCA, I truly felt my work was useful, and the program itself is free, if I recall correctly, you only have to pay for travel + gear and there are scholarships available for those. So basically I agree with others above about nature focused programs being a good bet, and highly recommend SCA!
posted by milkweed at 8:10 PM on January 29, 2014

Will he be 16 in the summer? He could stay more local and be part of the Summer Junior Program in Mass. General Hospital's volunteer department.
posted by cadge at 12:20 AM on January 30, 2014

AFS (American Field Service) has a summer program he may want to take a look at.
posted by bluesky43 at 6:27 AM on January 30, 2014

On review, what milkweed said.
posted by bluesky43 at 6:28 AM on January 30, 2014

Another group that offers outdoor-focused volunteer vacation and accepts teens is the Appalachian Mountain Club, though maybe that's too close to home.

If he prefers air conditioning, I know the Museum of Science accepts high-school aged volunteers.
posted by mskyle at 6:34 AM on January 30, 2014

I'm seconding the suggestion for the Student Conservation Association. The minimum age for their National program is 15 and it is such a fantastic program. I did it when I was 17 and I recommend it to everyone I can because it was truly life changing for me.
posted by shornco at 8:49 AM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was 15 I worked for the City of Mesa Parks and Recreation Department (Mesa, AZ) as a Day Camp Councillor. The program was basically for low income families that couldn't afford regular child care during the summers. You could look into programs like that in your area, maybe through the YMCA?

You could also look into your local Animal Shelters. Around here they let kids take the dogs out for leashed walks and the cats out for playtime and cuddles. There are also cages to be mucked out. If he likes animals that could be a good fit, and it really does make a difference.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:27 AM on January 30, 2014

When my youngest was about that age, he started volunteering at the local zoo. He was working in the contact barn where they have farm animals. He had to clean a lot of stalls but he also got some cool behind the scenes experiences with zoo staff. (Five years later, he still talks about how he got to hold one of the tiger cubs.) Eventually, that led to a part-time job at the zoo.
posted by maurice at 10:18 AM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

So many terrific leads here, thanks to everyone. He's going to fix some trails with the Appalachian Mountain Club this summer and if it's a positive experience, will saunter out west with YCC when he's 16. Fresh air, camping, fixing trails; he's excited beyond measure.

Oh, and there will be girls. This thrills him to no end.
posted by kinetic at 3:32 AM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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