Whether they’re stocking a food bank, walking dogs or planting a neighborhood garden, every hour a teen spends volunteering makes a positive impact not only on the community they serve, but on their future as well.
A study from Child Trends found that teens who volunteer are more likely to build a deeper respect for others, boost their work ethic, and resist drugs and alcohol. They tend to be more involved politically and continue their dedication to the community as adults.
The best news is teens want to volunteer – in fact, they’re more likely to step in to help than any other age group under 35. That’s why we’ve stepped up our original 15 summer volunteer opportunity list with 10 more ways your teen can show the world their caring heart and giving spirit.
1. Midtown Community Services Summer Academy Day Camp
Each year, more than 70 kids from at-risk neighborhoods come to Midtown Community Services in The Grove to spend the summer playing, learning and growing. Teens ages 14 to 18 are welcome to help with field trips, arts and crafts projects, science experiments, and more. While teens can choose which days they volunteer, the organization asks they help from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2. Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN)
KEEN is dedicated to fostering confidence, self-esteem and community inclusion for youth with disabilities. Teen volunteers are paired with a child or peer as they participate together in KEEN’s Sports, Swim, and Sings programs. Whether your teen plays basketball or plays an instrument, there are a variety of opportunities for them to help others and build incredible friendships. Volunteers should be 14, but kids ages 10-13 can volunteer with an adult.
3. St. Louis Food Rescue
With a pair of keys and a strong pair of arms, your teen driver can help reduce food waste and help feed hundreds of families in St. Louis. Through St. Louis Food Rescue, teens pick up food donations from local restaurants and grocery stores and distribute them to the organization’s network. Volunteers just need to have access to a truck, SUV or minivan for transport. Thanks to its helpers, STLFR saves 5,000 pounds of food each week!
4. Hospital Volunteer Programs
Teens who want a career in healthcare can give their time through Student Volunteer Programs at hospitals across the area. Opportunities include everything from patient transport and customer service to clerical support and special events planning. Some options even offer job shadowing for participants who qualify. Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and Missouri Baptist Medical Center are just a few of the hospitals offering summer programs for teens.
5. International Institute St. Louis
Your teen can welcome new families to St. Louis and celebrate the diversity of cultures that makes our city such a great place to live! International Institute is looking for teen volunteers to help with children’s art projects, trash collection and other tasks at its Festival of Nations, August 25 and 26. Teens who want more long-term opportunities can help set up apartments for refugee families and provide babysitting services on an as-needed basis.
6. Ride on STL
Who doesn’t love the beauty and majesty of a horse? Especially when that horse is helping improve the quality of life and overall health for individuals with disabilities through equine therapy! Ride on STL is looking for volunteers who can perform age-appropriate tasks, such as side-walking to help support and stabilize riders or maintaining the facility by cleaning stalls and painting.
7. Missouri State Parks Volunteer Patch Program
Does your teen love the great outdoors? Or, are they more of a history buff? Either way, they can find the perfect opportunity to protect our local state parks and historic sites. The Missouri State Parks Volunteer Patch Program lets teens participate in a work day and receive a patch as their thanks. From maintaining flower beds at Babler Memorial State Park to maintaining trails at the Mastodon State Historic Site, it’s the perfect reason to get out in nature!
8. World Bird Sanctuary Junior Volunteer Program
At the World Bird Sanctuary, aspiring naturalists, vets and conservationists can get up close and personal with a variety of wildlife. Teens of all ages can participate in a number of education, facility maintenance and animal management programs, but volunteers have to be 16 before beginning training to handle the resident birds of prey. Teens must volunteer 8 hours a month to participate.
9. Five Acres Animal Shelter
Teens can spend the day with man’s best friend – and cats, too – at Five Acres in St. Charles. Opportunities include walking dogs, cleaning kennels and play yards, and assisting with administrative tasks to help this incredible organization find forever homes for stray pets. Even tweens can get in on the fun by socializing with the animals through Books with Bingo, Five Acres’ reading program.
10. Earthdance Farms High School Volunteer Program
At Earthdance Farms, teens play a direct role in the good food movement, helping this nonprofit bring produce straight from the field to our plates. On the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon, there’s a different volunteer opportunity available for high school students. In addition to getting their hands dirty, teens can learn why sustainability is crucial to our environment and our health.
Is your teen still not finding the perfect match for them? Be sure to have them check out VolunTEEN Nation, based in St. Louis, which lets them search for opportunities by location, age and category.
Want to mix in some summer camps along with volunteering for your teens and tweens this summer? Check our Summer Camp Guide for camps that offer sessions for teens! Use the search function for your child's age, or search under "Type of Camp" for Volunteer Opportunities for Teens.
Photo courtesy of KEEN St. Louis
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL