Teen Talk: Teens and Community Involvement

Teen Talk
Posted at 7:30 AM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-04 11:46:53-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- More and more middle schools and high school students around the country are being asked and sometimes required to do community service hours. So what kind of opportunities are out there? 

Reports say 59-percent of U.S. teens volunteers an average of 3.5 hours a week. That's 13.3 million volunteers across the county.

Family therapist Jane Marks says community service is a gift that we can give to our children that ultimately can end up in life long habits and certainly teaches them a different way of involving themselves in our community.

Here's some of Marks' favorite ways for teens to get involved:

1. A really key website is  One of the largest organizations in the country for teens and social change.  Almost every week they launch a new campaign, a campaign that calls teens to action in some way.  The neat thing is that it doesn’t require money, an adult or a car, it just involves a sense of engagement.

2. COASTSWEEP is an international campaign organized by the conservancy in Washington, D.C. and it addresses cleanups scheduled throughout the world in September and October of each year.  It’s interesting, have your youngster look this up.  They will find it interesting, particularly if they love to be outside, this is another way of having community engagement.

3. Opportunities with Seniors.  Every community has senior centers as well as assisted living facilities and non-assisted living and certainly involvement in these organizations can be very productive, but also involvement with elderly neighbors in a way that includes a Girl Friday or Boy Friday concept.

4. Supporting younger kids.  For student athletes, for gifted academic students to identifying young kids who are at risk or are underexposed in specific experiences, this is always an opportunity for community engagement and involvement.

5. is another site with an enormous data base of non-profit volunteer opportunities.  It is a huge way for teens to get involved.  In this community we have so many non-profits, everything from the United Way to Boys and Girls Club, Boys Town to Habitat for Humanity.  There are multiple ways that teens can get involved in these groups.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of calling on the director or some of the program developers to say, “how can I be a participant in a cause that is very near and dear to me?”

6. Working with Animals.  Pet ad Litem, the Humane Society, local animal shelters, the community animal shelters.  There are so many campaigns involved with animals, whether it’s taking pictures, taking care of animals, cleaning and supporting staffers in these organizations.  All of these are opportunities for teens.

7. Homeless Shelters or working with the homeless. Preparing or distributing meals, being part of retooling personal products like collecting toothbrushes.  All of these are tasks that have to repeated over and over again.  Being part of a group that checks to see if food banks require additional food, or homeless shelters require extra food.

8. The Environment.  Many state parks offer volunteer programs as well as educational programs.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of contacting a state park near you. The Sierra Club, Earthday site, community gardens.

9. City programs.  In our community, both the county and the city offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities.  The city parks and recreation departments can use help in a variety of ways. Check with your local commissioners.

10. The political climate and upcoming political campaigns.  If you or your family are part of a particular party, this is an opportunity for young people to get involved on the ground, knocking on doors, picking a candidate who they believe in and learning more about the candidate and what it takes to elect them.  This is a great opportunity for most young teens and this is the season to do it.

11. There are many health organizations that also need support.  Hospitals typically have volunteer programs.  I know Tallahassee Memorial as well as Capital Regional have young volunteers that participate in both hospital settings.  Clinics, some of the community clinics also lend themselves to some opportunities.  It’s just a matter of exposing yourself to these areas that you have a genuine interest in.

12. Service learning, particularly in high schools, offers young people unique opportunities to link what they learn in the classroom to real world situations.  A good example is volunteering to teach English to non-English speaking people.

13. Use your social media skills.  Spreading the word of worthy causes or worthy organizations.  This is particularly useful with non-profits.

14. Creating your own non-profit.  A young man did an “Under the Tree” event to raise gifts for older teenagers who are typically overlooked during toy drives.

All of these ideas are concepts that nurture community engagement and also serve to boost self-confidence and self-esteem.  This is the framework that we continue to build.