Self Service or Community Service: Do Teenagers Value Volunteering?

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, almost a quarter of residents in the United States volunteered in 2015, contributing to 7.9 billion hours of service, 1.3 billion of which were completed by teenagers. Volunteering can help improve college applications, but do teenagers often consider the deeper meaning behind their service? Despite any ulterior motives that students may have, participating in community service benefits both teens and the communities they assist.

Even if students initially participate in community service with wrong intentions, many of them later realize the true value of volunteering. Community service allows students to look beyond themselves and have a first-hand experience making a positive influence in their local community.

Not only are adolescents making an impact in the here and now, but they are also paving the way to a future of activism and altruism. A 2002 study from Child Trends concluded that people who are involved in civic engagement programs are more likely to be presently active in school affairs, hold a positive and professional attitude, continue their community service involvement in the future and vote. The idea of helping people in need makes an impact on students’ mindset, as they are more likely to be able to self-assess social problems in their community. Community service helps the youth get a sense of their role on a personal and societal level.

Cartoon by Emily Chin

Volunteer work helps students understand their role in both their local community and the global society  international and domestic public service projects expose volunteers to new experiences and interests. Teens can volunteer abroad and immerse themselves in other cultures, helping to expand their knowledge about the world they live in. While touring a country could produce a similar effect, community service requires working personally with inhabitants to learn firsthand about the hardships faced by those in other countries, giving teenagers a global perspective and fostering compassion and understanding. One gets to fully understand the environment and make connections with others that could last a lifetime.

Researchers found that teens who participate in community services are more likely to continue to participate in public service when they are older. As shown by a study for, Young volunteers will remember the enjoyment of social work when they grow older, inspiring them to continue volunteering as they mature. Moreover, teens participate in community service that interests them, helping develop these passions and create lasting connections with many people.  

Even though some students participate in volunteer work for personal gain, many students participate in community service events to benefit the community. According to a recent study by on volunteer motivations, the many youth choose to participate in volunteer work to make a difference in people’s lives. Not only will students benefit from their volunteer work, their communities will as well, regardless of the motives.

Community service is a fulfilling way to connect with your community, explore different cultures, meet new people, and serve others. The way in which volunteers view community service affects the quality and outcome of their work. We should view community service as an amazing opportunity to serve others in need and as a chance to grow and develop on a personal level.