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The Best Volunteer Work You Can Do

The best volunteer work you can do is something you really love that demonstrates commitment, initiative, and leadership. You might think it’s more impressive to go with a group and build houses in Costa Rica for a month one summer, but if STEM is your base you’re better off spending the time to plan and organize a science fair for a low income school or designing and running an after school program for low income kids. The latter is much more difficult because you are in charge.

How I Did It 

I went to a catholic high school, so we were required to do 100 hours of volunteer work at a single charity in order to graduate. This included one week each during junior and senior year and the remainder during the summer. I could’ve volunteered at a number of local charities doing the normal thing, but that wasn’t really interesting to me. Instead, my friend and I decided we want to put together an event for foster parents. We partnered with a local charity for foster parents and researched dozens of organizations that provided different kinds of support for foster parents. We spent a year on the project that culminated with a two-day resource fair and an accompanying resources pamphlet. Overall, it wasn’t the most successful fair (we maybe had two families attend), but all of the organizations that came had a wonderful networking experience that enhanced their referral opportunities and we learned a lot. Taking complete ownership of a project really forces you to learn and grow more than just doing what you’re told.

Get the Most Mileage out of your Volunteer Experience

I used my volunteer experience not only for my graduation requirements, but also for National Honor Society, for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, and for my Girl Scout Gold Award. You put in the hours, and it’s nice to be recognized for it. Just remember that awards are the icing on the cake. The thing that really matters is the commitment and leadership demonstrated in your service.

Action Items

  1. Brainstorm ideas for out of the box service opportunities that build on your base. Running events are my favorite because not only are you doing something great for other people, you are building your organizational, leadership, and networking skills at the same time.
  2. Contact at least 5 organizations that you could partner with for the service.
  3. Leave a comment about your idea. I read every one.

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