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Parenting Matters: Volunteering builds teen social skills

Diane Ernst, DuPage Children's Museum
Diane Ernst, DuPage Children's Museum

Welcome to the Collaborative Youth Team’s column, “Parenting Matters!” The Collaborative Youth Team is a partnership of 24 youth and family service organizations and agencies. Each month, a different partner will offer practical tips for restoring balance within our families and for building resiliency in our youth. This month’s column is shared by Diane Ernst, coordinator of volunteer resources for the DuPage Children’s Museum.

 

Volunteering provides teens with amazing opportunities to learn skills today that will help them become leaders in the future. Volunteering is often a teen’s first exposure to the workplace, and the lessons learned will provide the teen with valuable work and life skills and help them start to build a resume.

Here are 10 reasons teens should volunteer:

1. Because of the state of the economy, there are few opportunities for young teens to have a part-time job or learn skills to prepare them for future employment. Volunteering at nonprofits like DuPage Children’s Museum is similar to having a job. Teens experience the whole process of application, interview, training and orientation. They learn about policies and procedures, and take on responsibilities.

2. Teens learn valuable customer service skills that will benefit them in future employment and in life situations. They learn the importance and impact of appropriate non-verbal behavior as well as verbal interactions with people.

3. Teens build self confidence and social skills as they interact with hundreds of visitors, staff and other volunteers of varying ages, cultures and languages.

4. Teens learn to work in a team environment and experience hands-on learning as they work closely with and are mentored by staff.

5. By participating and volunteering, teens connect with others, make new friends, and experience first hand the impact of giving back and making an impact on visitors and their community.

6. Teens enjoy advancement to higher skilled positions as they gain experience, build more skills, and attend additional training. Teens may become lead volunteers to mentor new volunteers and act as role models.

7. Teens bring a unique perspective and share valuable insights with museum staff. Many of our teen volunteers are familiar with our 150 math, science and art exhibits. Not only have the majority of our teen volunteers played in the museum as children, they have also studied these same concepts at school.

8. Teens can take on specific leadership projects. Volunteering provides them with opportunities to learn management, decision making, delegation, compromise and collaboration skills in a supportive environment.

9. Volunteering encourages curiosity, creativity, problem solving and sharing ideas. Teens can work closely with staff to develop new activities and exhibits.

10. Sometimes a volunteer position will lead to part-time employment or an internship opportunity.

Volunteering for teens can be much more impactful and valuable than just getting service hours for school, church or Scouts. A well-chosen volunteer experience will build a resume, build skills and help prepare the teen to be an innovative leader and contributor to the community.

This column is courtesy of KidsMatter, Collaborative Youth Team coordinator. To access the Community Resource Guide and Partner contact information, visit www.KidsMatter2us.org.

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