Whether your teen is an artist, an athlete or an animal lover, they can help make the St. Louis region the best it can be with their time and talents, and gain valuable experience in the process.
Organizations from across the area are currently looking for tweens and teens to join their volunteer and intern teams for the summer. In just a few hours each month, your teen can meet their service requirements for school, grow job skills for their future, and most important, build bonds that will last for years to come.
No matter your teen’s interests, there’s a perfect volunteer opportunity just waiting to be discovered:
Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design
Teens can gain knowledge about the arts and experience working with young children as teen interns in the Summer Art Camp program at the Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design. Teens ages 15-18 will benefit from the creative, relaxed environment and the chance to improve their communication skills as they assist artists and instructors with the younger campers. The Teen Intern Application is available here.
St. Louis Challenger Baseball Buddies
Now that baseball season’s in full swing, it’s time to help kids on and off the field! The St. Louis Challenger Baseball league gives kids, teens and young adults with developmental disabilities the chance to play on a team. Anyone age 10 to 25 is welcome to volunteer as a buddy to assist players in the field or around bases if needed, but even more important, grow meaningful relationships at each and every game.
Teen Museum Studies at the Contemporary Art Museum
Teens interested in a museum career can gain hands-on experience in public relations, accounting and other specialties through the Teen Museum Studies program at CAM. Even more exciting, teens will work together to curate an entire exhibition, from choosing the artist to planning the opening reception. Applications for Summer 2019 are due by June 1, and more information is available at camstl.org
SAGE and MANTIS at Missouri Botanical Garden
MOBOT offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities through its 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. MANTIS (Making Advocates of Nature-Loving Teens In Service) lets teens can learn about environmental stewardship while working with kids at The Butterfly House. More information can be found at mobot.org.
The Magic House
Your teen can add a little magic to their 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. Learn more at magichouse.org.
St. Louis Crisis Nursery
The St. Louis Crisis Nursery depends heavily on the work of volunteers, including teens, to assist trained staff in taking care of children whose families are experiencing an emergency caused by homelessness, domestic violence, illness or stress. If your teen is more interested in the fundraising side of things, they can join an SLCN Junior Board in St. Louis City, St. Louis County or St. Charles County to help plan events like the Unbirthday Parties and holiday celebrations. You'll find more details about all volunteer opportunities at crisisnurserykids.org.
Jewish Community Center
Does your teen want to volunteer somewhere, but not sure where to start? With a number of programs available for all ages and all interests, the J offers something for any young volunteer to get excited about. Just a few of the current opportunities include assisting with the St. Louis Senior Olympics over Memorial Day weekend, helping kids as a Counselor in Training for J Day Camps, or designing sets for its Youth Theatre program. Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities at The J in Creve Coeur and Chesterfield.
Local libraries offer fun and interesting ways for teens to give back to our community. Teens can volunteer at the St. Louis County Library, or join its Teen Advisory Group to offer feedback. Volunteer opportunities are also available with the Summer Reading Program at the St. Charles-City County Library, and at the St. Louis Public Library, teens can organize video games, read to younger kids, and help with arts and crafts.
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 opportunities for them to help others and build incredible friendships. Volunteers should be at least 14, but kids ages 10-13 can volunteer with an adult.
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! Learn more about volunteer opportunities at stlouisfoodrescue.org.
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 planting 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!
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 who are least 13 years old can join its Animal Management program and work behind the scenes to assist staff with training, cleaning and feeding. Or, they can go the Junior Naturalist route to maintain displays and interact with the public. Volunteers have to be 16 before beginning training to handle the resident birds of prey, and all teens must volunteer 8 hours a month to participate. Learn more about the Junior Volunteer Program here.
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.
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 ages 14 and older. In addition to getting their hands dirty, teens can learn why sustainability is crucial to our environment and our health. Learn more at earthdancefarms.org.
Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition ReFresh Store
If your teen has an eye for fashion and a heart for others, ReFresh has volunteer opportunities for caring trendsetters. The resale shop, which stocks both second-hand items and new clothing from area boutiques, benefits the Coalition and offers deep discounts to tweens and teens in foster care. Volunteers ages 15 and older can sort clothing donations, style the shop’s mannequins and assist customers with shopping.
► These worthwhile organizations are just a handful of the hundreds of nonprofits doing incredible work here in St. Louis. For more opportunities, including those for families, younger children and teens with limited availability, explore the United Way’s online Volunteer Center or check out VolunTEEN Nation and search by zip code. (VolunTEEN Nation was founded by former Clayton teen Simone Berstein, now a medical student!)
Photos: Earthdance Farms, World Bird Sanctuary, Contemporary Art Museum.
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
Enjoy authentic food, live Salsa bands, dancing, the Los Niños Children's Pavilion with piñatas, a petting zoo, Dora and Diego and more at the area’s largest Hispanic festival.