For many kids, the lazy days of summer represent freedom from school, learning and responsibility. But for teens, summer vacation also represents an opportunity to explore new interests, gain real world skills and forge important connections that will help them succeed as they slowly make the transition into adulthood.
Volunteering – whether to fulfill community service requirements or to help a favorite cause – can open up a world of new experiences to teens, as well as foster creativity, innovation and a positive work ethic. Plus, it’s a way to make new friends and have fun! If you’re looking for local volunteer opportunities for your St. Louis teen this summer, we’ve rounded up several programs that may be right for you.
1. Teen Network programs at MOBOT
The Missouri Botanical Garden offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities through their Teen Network of programs. For example, students ages 14-18 are invited to lead activities about plants and nature for families in the Children’s Garden through SAGE, which stands for Students as Garden Educators. Through SIFT (Shaw Institute for Field Training), students in grades 11-12 can participate in important research at the Shaw Nature Reserve.
School year volunteer opportunities exist too; TREEs, which runs from September –May, allows high schoolers to lead portions of the family programs at Shaw Nature Reserve. Younger teens in grades 6-8 can participate in the H20 ecology, where they will learn about science and nature and help at both Prairie Day and the Wildflower Market. Click here to learn about all available programs at MOBOT, including application requirements and deadlines.
2. Forest Park Forever’s Nature Works program
If you have a teen who loves working outdoors (and wants to get paid for it!), check out Forest Park Forever’s Nature Works program. Through March 24, area teens ages 16+ can apply for one of ten paid summer internships with Nature Works. High school students who are chosen to participate will work collectively as a team with environmental professionals on the restoration of wildlife habitats throughout the Park. This rigorous 8-week program requires a high level of physical activity, as well as a willingness to work outside, sometimes in inclement weather.
3. Teen Leaders and Junior Leaders at Gateway Region YMCA
At the Gateway YMCA, teens can develop their leadership skills and gain real-life volunteer experience by joining a Leaders Club program. In Teen Leaders Club, teens (ages 13-18) get to plan and execute both volunteer and social events under the supervision of YMCA staff and volunteers. Pre-teens (ages 10-12) have similar opportunities through the Junior Leaders Club. Contact your local YMCA branch to get involved.
4. Camp Lakewood Volunteer and Intern Opportunities
Volunteers and interns are always welcome at Camp Lakewood at the YMCA’s Trout Lodge. Summer camp is always a fun experience for teens, and the beautiful setting and amazing activities available at Camp Lakewood can make this a summer to remember. For more information about summer volunteer and intern opportunities for teens, call 888-FUN-YMCA ext. 237 or complete this online contact form.
5. Internships and Junior Internships at the Saint Louis Science Center
Motivated high school students who want to explore science and work alongside Saint Louis Science Center staff should consider applying for the SLSC Junior Internship and Leadership Program. The program, which runs from June 5-July 31, provides valuable pre-employment experience and gives teens the opportunity to assist with galleries, provide customer service and answer visitors’ questions about various exhibits.
College students, preferably Juniors or Seniors who are pursuing a career in Science Education or Museum Studies, are also invited to apply for an SLSC Internship. More details are available here.
6. Volunteer at Camp Create
If your teen is artistic and enjoys working with children, then Artscope’s Camp Create represents the perfect summer volunteer opportunity. For 10 weeks over the summer, campers ages 5-11 will be playing games, making friends and creating art with local artists in Tower Grover Park, and teens with a love for art are needed to help run the camp. To be considered, have your teen fill out this volunteer application.
7. Teen Interns at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design
Teens can also gain knowledge about the arts and experience working with young children as Teen Interns in the Summer Studios Camp program at the Craft Alliance Center of Art and Design. Teens ages 15-18 will benefit from the creative, relaxed environment and the opportunity to improve their communication skills as they assist Artists/Instructors with the younger campers. The Teen Intern Application is available here.
8. Youth Volunteers at The Magic House
Your teen can add a little magic to his or her summer by volunteering at The Magic House! Youth volunteers (ages 13-college) will work to engage visitors’ curiosity through hands-on learning experiences in various Magic House exhibits. Volunteers, who are asked to serve at least 30 hours per year, begin as Museum Assistants, but more opportunities become available with experience.
9. Teen Museum Studies at CAM
Teens interested in various aspects of a museum career – from public relations to exhibitions to accounting – can gain hands-on experience through the Teen Museum Studies program at the Contemporary Art Museum. Applications for Summer 2016 are due by May 13, and more information is available on the Teen Museum Studies Facebook page.
10. Zoo ALIVE Teen Volunteers
As part of Zoo ALIVE, the St. Louis Zoo’s volunteer educator program for high school students, teens ages 15 and older can help with the Zoo’s conservation program, go on hiking and camping trips, assist with birthday parties and kids’ camps and teach weekend programs to scouts, preschoolers and more. Zoo ALIVE is a year-round program that requires a one-year commitment, so interested teens must be willing to volunteer over the summer and during the school year too.
Applications for new participants are due March 3. Complete details about the application process can be found here.
11. Volunteer and Intern Opportunities with St. Louis Crisis Nursery
The St. Louis Crisis Nursery depends heavily on the work of volunteers to assist trained staff in taking care of resident children, birth through age 12, at their five St. Louis area locations. Volunteers are also able to assist with special events and fundraising, and internship opportunities are available. Teens can begin volunteering at age 14, but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian until age 16.
12. Volunteer and Intern Opportunities with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis
One-time, short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities are available with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. With recreational programs like therapeutic playgroups and cooking classes as well as fundraising events throughout the year, volunteers and interns can help in a wide variety of ways. Contact the DSAGSL office at (314) 961-2504 or email@example.com with questions or for more information.
13. Volunteer at Area Libraries
Local libraries also offer fun and interesting ways for teens to give back to our community. Teens ages 12 and older can volunteer at the St. Louis County Library, and are also invited to offer feedback on library programs by joining the Teen Advisory Group. There are also many opportunities for teens over the age of 12 to volunteer their time within the St. Charles-City County Library Branch. And at the St. Louis Public Library, Teen Volunteers between the ages of 13 and 17 get to organize video games, read to younger kids, help with arts and crafts and more.
14. Summer Camp Counselor at the Humane Society of Missouri
Teens can find the “puuurrrfect” volunteer opportunity at the Humane Society of Missouri. As Summer Camp Counselors, animal lovers ages 15-18 will help teach younger children how and why to care about animals at various Humane Society camps throughout the summer. Call (314) 951-1572 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
15. Create your Own Volunteer Opportunity
While we’re fortunate to have many wonderful community organizations where teens can volunteer here in St. Louis (and you can find even more by searching the database at www.volunteennation.org), there are millions of other small – but just as significant – ways for teens to impact the lives of others each and every day.
If your teen is unable to participate in a volunteer program in an official capacity, he or she can still consider one of these 50 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers. Because no matter what type of volunteer work your teen chooses, volunteering remains one of the best ways for teens to identify their individual talents and passions, and lay the foundation for a successful and fulfilling future.
Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden
Alyssa Chirco is a freelance writer, mother and margarita lover, not necessarily in that order. In addition to writing for STL Parent, she is Contributing Editor at Parenting Squad, and covers parenting, health and lifestyle topics for publications across the country. She recently moved from the suburbs of St. Louis to a small town in rural Jefferson County, where she is learning to survive with no Target or Starbucks in sight. Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaChirco