With one more month of summer, many students (or parents) may be looking for ways to fill the time or prepare for the semester ahead. Volunteering is a great way to create structure and to develop a sense of cultural appreciation and commitment to the community. According to The New York Times article, The Benefits of Volunteerism, if the Service Is Real, published on July 30, 2010 by Alina Tugend, students who volunteered in the community - regardless of a requirement to perform community service - were more likely to vote, to volunteer again in the future and to have a more worthwhile experience than students who did not, or were not required to, volunteer in the community.
Miami Dade County Public Schools require that students complete a community service project before high school graduation. There is no required number of community service hours, but students who complete at least 75 hours may be eligible for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship program or the Superintendent’s Diploma of Distinction.
Not sure where to start? Check out these student-oriented community service programs.
- Camillus House
Camillus House is a multi-cultural Christian-based relief shelter that assists South Florida’s poor and homeless population. Camillus House provides emergency relief with food, shelter, clothing and healthcare and programming that empowers clients to obtain sustainable physical and emotional wellness and to ultimately reintegrate themselves into the community. On an annual basis, Camillus House serves 350,000 meals and provides emergency housing to 2,000 individuals.
Camillus House accepts volunteers of all backgrounds ages 14 and up (with an adult if aged 14-17). It is a great community service activity for students because no specific obligation is required. Some volunteer every week, while others volunteer for particular projects or specific events. Students volunteering for community service project hours have one month to complete 100 hours or less, two months to complete 200 hours and three months to complete 300 hours. There are many different areas in which students can choose to volunteer, such as preparing and serving food, playing with children or participating in a fundraising drive. More information is available here.
- Miami Dade Animal Services
Miami Dade Animal Services provides a safe, protective environment for pets before they are reunited with their owners or adopted by a new owner. Currently, the shelter is seeking volunteers to feed young kittens who are not yet able to feed themselves. Volunteers have the opportunity to make an impact on animals’ lives by caring for each pet and helping to find caring homes for each animal. Volunteers receive training in pet care and attend an orientation to learn about the organization’s mission. Student volunteers must be at least 15 years of age and accompanied by an adult if between the ages of 15 and 17. More information is available here.
- A Safe Haven for Newborns
A Safe Haven for Newborns relies on volunteers to reduce infant abandonment and assist future mothers and fathers in distress or crisis. The organization has more than 300 student volunteers each year. Students promote the organization through social media, participate in community fairs, distribute materials to the community and are involved in many other activities.
"We believed from the beginning that if we saved one life, all of our efforts would be worthwhile, said Nick Silverio, founder of A Safe Haven for Newborns. "As of today, 213 previous newborns have been saved from the dangers of abandonment."
- Miami Children’s Hospital
From August 1 through August 15, Miami Children’s Hospital will be accepting applications from students (ages 14 and up) wishing to volunteer for the academic year (September/October 2014 through June 2015). Students are accepted on a "first come, first serve" basis, to a maximum of 200 volunteers. Students ages 16 and up may have direct patient interaction through one of the hospital's patient care programs, such as Bedside Buddies, Pet Therapy and Radio Lollipop. Students ages 14 and above provide support services in the pharmacy, gift shop, hospitality cart, and other areas. Applications, volunteer requirements and instructions are available here.
- My Charity 4 Kids
My Charity 4 Kids invites students of all ages to volunteer. The organization creates volunteer opportunities by hosting and participating in a variety of events, ranging from a beach clean-up to distribution of informational flyers regarding cancer research.
“Students are excited because they get to do different types of volunteering,” said Mark Chesney, founder of My Charity 4 Kids. “They have a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
Volunteer opportunities with My Charity 4 Kids can be found here.