Volunteer opportunities for teenagers
May 22, 2014 7:07 AM   Subscribe

What opportunities are there for a seventeen year old to volunteer during the summer?

Many places that accept adult volunteers do not accept under-age volunteers, because they don't want to be used as a baby sitting service. I'm hoping that there are some places that permit teens to volunteer for cool* stuff, and that MeFites will have specific examples of same. Thanks!

* cool: interesting, challenging, difference-making.
posted by popechunk to Society & Culture (24 answers total)
Are you looking for residential opportunities or local/day opportunities? Where? (country? states? rural? urban?) Full-time or one/a couples days a week?

Two that I know of off the top of my head are teen volunteer trail crews for the Appalachian Mountain Club and youth volunteering at the Museum of Science, Boston. I've worked with teens at the MOS and I've seen kids working on the AMC crews and it seems like they get to do cool stuff.
posted by mskyle at 7:16 AM on May 22, 2014

I used to volunteer for a teen Crisis Hotline when I was in high school. The training they provided probably helped me more than anyone I talked to on the phone. It had the advantage of being flexible hour-wise and also feeling like I was making an immediate difference to my peers on the other end of the line.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:21 AM on May 22, 2014

When my grandfather lived in assisted living, there were lots of teens volunteering there doing what I thought was pretty cool stuff - gardening, playing board games with seniors, and teaching basic computer classes ("Email 101," "Skype 101").
posted by juniperesque at 7:21 AM on May 22, 2014

How about being a Candy Striper at the local hospital? I did this and it was great! I even went to school for my EMT and for Nursing. Loved it, love hospitals.

I also did YMCA Day Camp. (Automatic Birth Control)

How about Camp Counselor at a camp for kids with diabilities?

It's late in the game for a lot of these, most of those positions are filled up earlier in the season, but you can still apply.

How about being a Nanny for the summer, the quasi-adult supervision for kids who aren't going to camp.

Does it have to be volunteer? Could it be a job? Jobs are pretty great!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 AM on May 22, 2014

I just saw this one, I'd be all over it! 7 weeks in camp watching a toddler! Too fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:23 AM on May 22, 2014

> Are you looking for residential opportunities or local/day opportunities?

If this means, "does she want to sleep at home every night?", then yes, she wants to sleep at home every night.

> Where?

Austin, TX, USA

> Does it have to be volunteer? Could it be a job? Jobs are pretty great!

It could be a job, I just didn't want her to get a crappy job just for gas money. I told her that if she could find a volunteer job that was fulfilling and brought her joy, I'd just pay her the minimum wage for her hours. I don't want her to get a job working for a car.
posted by popechunk at 7:27 AM on May 22, 2014

My brother spent several summers volunteering at the local VA hospital, doing things like bringing around food, chatting with patients waiting for appointments, manning the information desk, etc. He really loved it because he spent a lot of time with folks like old Vietnam vets who felt ignored in general making them feel like someone felt they mattered. I can almost guarantee that they would be interested in having someone as a volunteer.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2014

Try Volunteer Match. It doesn't look like you can search for gigs specific to those under 18 but in my experience, most interpersonal experiences are okay for minors - food service just gets dicey because you could stab yourself and animals bite.
posted by kat518 at 7:51 AM on May 22, 2014

Some animal shelters will let a 17-year-old volunteer, although I think most shelters require you to be at least 18 years old (some even make it 21). It varies from shelter to shelter. Seems like the Austin Animal Center will let her volunteer, if you attend orientation with her.
posted by alex1965 at 7:51 AM on May 22, 2014

I spent all of my summers during high school volunteering in my local science museum (in Dallas) and it was a blast!! I spent my time helping the staff run hands-on demonstrations/experiments and after they got to know that I was pretty responsible, I was allowed to help them run IMAX stuff. It was all the fun bits of messing around with science experiments and entertaining kids without having to deal with lots of tears or other bodily fluids children tend to produce.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:52 AM on May 22, 2014

It could be a job, I just didn't want her to get a crappy job just for gas money.

I'm going to disagree with you here. Crappy jobs are the jobs most of us will have during college and even after. The sooner we get used to it, and to understand how things work in the real world, the better it is. I'm so glad that I worked, and got fired from Jack-in-the-Box when I was a kid, it taught me a LOT about the bullshit you put up with in a job, and about independance, money and the value of work.

Just a thought.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I volunteered at a library during the summer when I was 18. I spent a lot of time shelving books, putting cards in card catalogs (it was that long ago!), and cutting bugs out of construction paper to decorate the wall's of the kids' section in light of the theme of that year's summer reading program. (Way more fun than the summer I spent many years later as a library volunteer cataloging books as I looked for a job in the library field!)

I also volunteered at a local theatre doing backstage stuff for a kids' workshop/play production. I helped with costumes and makeup, created props, and ran some of the lighting. The year before I'd been in the workshop and did acting, and since I'd aged out of participating in the acting portion, they jumped at the chance of free labor.
posted by telophase at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2014

> Crappy jobs are the jobs most of us will have during college and even after. The sooner we get used to it, and to understand how things work in the real world, the better it is.

I struggled with this thought for a long time. I've had a job since I was eight years old. I've had a lot of really, really shitty jobs. On my journey through life, I've met a lot of other people with shitty jobs, and I've met some people who've *never* had a "real job".

And by "real job" I mean, "job that's not part of their life's work". Artists, I guess. They just straight up refused to work on anything but their art, and only did stuff that made them fulfilled, and just took the poverty that sometimes came with it in stride.

I really do not want my daughter to live in poverty. But I do want her to find Her Thing, whatever it is. And if being fulfilled means she doesn't get to Buy Stuff, screw it. I'll give her money and Stuff as long as I can.

If it turns out that she needs Jack in the Box, I'm sure it will always be there.

So that's where I came down on that idea, if it helps.
posted by popechunk at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did the same thing with my son the summer he was 16. He couldn't really get a job because he had other commitments that made him less than ideally available. So he volunteered on his non-busy weeks at a nonprofit youth summer program near our house. Great experience/exposure/references, and I paid him a fair wage after he tracked his hours and calculated his earnings, etc.
posted by headnsouth at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2014

-Tutoring or mentoring middle school kids (organized or freelance)
-Day camp counselor (probably a paid gig)
-Maybe something entrepreneurial (paid/unpaid as she desires) -- what is she passionate about and/or good at? Can she teach it to others or volunteer her time doing this thing for others?
-Public activism -- start/work on a community garden, volunteer for a political campaign (Wendy Davis perhaps?), etc.

Idealist is a great resource for this (she shouldn't limit herself to just the "volunteer opps" listings -- she can also look for organizations she might like and contact them directly to see what she can do to help).
posted by melissasaurus at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2014

> what is she passionate about and/or good at? Can she teach it to others or volunteer her time doing this thing for others?

That's basically the stuff she's working through in her mind right now.
posted by popechunk at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2014

I'm pretty sure that most smart charities have opportunities available for teenagers.

Most progressive model animal shelters do accept underaged volunteers, and they usually have specific tracks and orientations geared toward different aged kids.

Another option I have a personal fondness for is Meals on Wheels. It looks like your area has a pretty great system set up there offering a range of services, so even if she doesn't have a car or a license to do deliveries, there's probably some other role she could fill.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:05 AM on May 22, 2014

My teenager son is volunteering in an animal farm that provides assistance to special needs students. He helps with cleaning, feeding animals, moving animals from one side of the farm to the other, and helping on special events. This farm has horses, camels, goats, ponies, llamas, so is pretty cool. It's hard work but he exercises and get to spend time outside with all kind of animals while developing some skills. Probably there is something like this in Austin.
posted by 3dd at 9:06 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I spent a summer in college interning at Family Eldercare in Austin; they're a non-profit that provides services for older people to help them stay independent and in their homes. They run a summer fan drive and I know they need volunteers- I'm not sure if they have age limits.
posted by MadamM at 10:57 AM on May 22, 2014

Seconding volunteering at the library! I did this back in the day - when I was growing up they always needed volunteers to help with the summer reading programs, among other things. Here's information about volunteering at the Austin Public Library.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2014

I'd definitely look on volunteermatch.

When I was her age I volunteered at a shelter for homeless families. I had an "internship" at 16 where I helped out in the office, chaperoned field trips with the kids, and supervised the kids when the parents had house meetings. For the rest of high school I came on Saturday mornings to supervise during house meetings as well.
posted by radioamy at 11:01 AM on May 22, 2014

MDA summer camps, diabetes summer camp, or other summer camps whether the campers have some sort of medical condition can be a very meaningful and fulfilling volunteer experience. It is a good way to appreciate how people can have a challenging time in carrying out daily activities of living and to practice anticipating the needs of others.

Seconding the crisis hotline (this particular link requires you to be over 18, though I'm sure there are options for 17-year-olds, too) option as well-- the training process is often intense and meaningful.

If your teen has any skills (music? chess? art? tennis?) he or she could volunteer in a teaching capacity. Teaching is always a valuable experience!

Have fun!
posted by gemutlichkeit at 11:27 AM on May 22, 2014

Your local National Park (if you have one locally) will have a volunteer coordinator that is always looking for help. My son spent a summer doing volunteer research for the Chief Historian here, and it resulted in my son getting his first publishing credit at age 16 when he and the Historian co-published an article in a history journal after my son's research uncovered a civil war era article that nobody knew existed.
posted by COD at 1:03 PM on May 22, 2014

This is going to sound snarkier than I intend, but seventeen is old enough for her to find her own summer job without a parent's help. Have her do her own googling, talking to friends, message board posting, etc. If she wants to find 'Her Thing', looking for it is part of the learning process. Be there for her if she runs into a wall, and suggest that she write a question to ask-mefi if she's having trouble finding something specific. Of course you know your kid best, but to me, handing her a list of suggestions from the internet is a little patronizing.
posted by tinymegalo at 4:05 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Career Direction and Making a Move   |   Leak on driver's side floor when it rains. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.