Serving Your Community This Summer

As I write this, most of you are still preparing for finals or have just wrapped up your junior year.  Summer is calling and college applications are the last thing on your mind.  But with eight weeks of freedom there is plenty of time to dedicate a few hours a week to helping out your local community.  

The University of California website states that:

“UC does not have a community service requirement. However, experiences that demonstrate unusual promise for leadership, such as significant community service, may be considered by the campuses in the comprehensive review of a student's application.”

When working with students who are writing their Personal Insights at THE College Prep Camp, I’ve found that students either have a specific story they want to tell or they are completely at a loss.  With those that are stuck, we start to brainstorm by discussing their transcripts and extra curricular activities.  Usually something jumps out that they can write about but oftentimes a strong academic student does not have very many “off campus” experiences to pull from.  

By volunteering in your community, even during the summer before your senior year, you won’t just be giving back to your community but you’ll also invest in programs that can inspire your Personal Insights and maybe even influence your future career.  Below are ten ideas for getting involved in your community.

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*http://www.operationgratitude.com/

“Operation Gratitude annually sends 150,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment, hygiene products,  handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation to New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, individually-named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas, Wounded Heroes and their caregivers.”

Located in Chatsworth, CA volunteers can work onsite or visit the website to organize their own collection drive from anywhere in the country.  For specifics on how, visit https://opgrat.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/how-to-organize-a-collection-drive/

*https://www.dosomething.org/us/campaigns

This website is great for sparking ideas for Community Service campaigns that you can start in your community.  Ideas range from clothes drives to flagging ivory items for sale online to diabetes awareness walks.  With so many ideas, this is a great place to start if you want to find a way to promote a cause that is already important to you.

*http://www.projectlinus.org/

If you enjoy sewing either on your own or with extended family, Project Linus is a great way to use your skill to give back.  

From their website:

“Provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer ‘blanketeers.’”

*http://relay.acsevents.org/

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program has spread across the world raising nearly $5 billion to fight cancer.  Chances are, there is a Relay for Life near you that you can get involved with.  Check out their website to see how you can get involved and how you can even organize a Relay for Life if an event is not currently scheduled in your area.

*https://www.covenanthouse.org/Learn-more-about-Sleep-Out

Help raise awareness about homeless youth by staging a Sleep Out.

From their website:

“...an opportunity for young adults to spend time together immersing themselves in some of the problems that homeless teens face every day and to be part of the solution to these problems. A Sleep Out event can be held anywhere in the world, with just a few kids participating or with hundreds of people sleeping outside for one night in solidarity with homeless youth. The structure of this event is similar to a dance marathon or team relay program with fundraising and awareness at the forefront.”

*http://outreachprogram.org/

Another great program that you can be a part of from anywhere in the world and help end hunger.

From their website:

“The Outreach Program Meal Packaging Events bring people, organizations, and businesses together to package meals and promote the county Hunger Space. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers come away educated, engaged, and empowered.”

*http://www.aspca.org/take-action/volunteer

Volunteer with animals.  Not just limited to ASPCA, there are many opportunities to work with animals in most communities.  Talk to your local veterinarian or your Ag teacher to find out how you can get involved.

*https://bestbuddies.org/

From their website:

“Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities). For individuals within this community, Best Buddies helps them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communications skills, and feel valued by society.”

Best Buddies has volunteer opportunities in all 50 states and also has tips for becoming an advocate for people with IDD through the use of social media.

*http://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/signup/aboutmealsonwheels

One of the most widespread nonprofits in America, there is an excellent chance that a local chapter of Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers.

From their website:

“At the core of the Meals on Wheels service is a nutritious meal, companionship and a watchful eye on the health and safety of our seniors. For those who have trouble getting around, we bring the service to you. For those who can still venture out into their communities, we serve in gathering places, such as senior centers and community facilities.”

*http://www.shareinafrica.org/

A nonprofit started by a fifteen year old girl, Share in Africa provides thousands of girls in Africa with books and school supplies.

From their website:

“SHARE has provided thousands of African girls with books, new desks, desperately needed school supplies, study programs and access to advanced education. These girls are overcoming prejudice, gaining skills, and working toward brighter futures.  Now, our main focus is providing scholarships so girls can attend high school. We know there is no limit to what a girl can do with a quality education. Our motto: ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.’”

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By getting involved, you won’t just earn community service hours and inspire ideas for your Personal Insights.  I’ve met many students who changed their career goals to medicine, veterinary science, sociology, or teaching after just a few months of volunteering.  By facilitating change in the real world, you may reveal a passion for something new that you’ll want to pursue far beyond this summer.

None of the organizations listed above in anyway affiliated with THE College Prep Camp.
Bryan Starchman teaches personal insight writing for THE College Prep Camp.  He is also an English and Drama teacher at Mariposa County High School and a published playwright.