Eye on Extension: Youth volunteerism might surprise you

VALLEY — While negative stereotypes abound on the outlooks, lifestyles, and attitudes of young people today, most youth in the country are actually healthy, happy and productive members of society. In fact, the majority of youth engage in some sort of volunteer activity, and many see the value of helping others.

Youth contribute more than 1.3 billion hours of community service each year. The youth volunteer rate has been increasing steadily for the past decade. When youth volunteer, benefits are reaped by almost everyone involved – those being helped, the community and the volunteers involved. According to Maria de Guzman, Adolescent Development Specialist for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, volunteerism has important implications for positive youth development.

Among other things, it encourages a sense of service and responsibility towards others, provides a way to develop skills and relationships, and facilitates the development of various social skills such as empathy, and a strong sense of identity. Students who volunteer are also more likely to do better in school, and be active in their communities as adults.

Involvement in the San Luis Valley 4- H program promotes volunteerism. 4-H has always felt that giving back to the community is an important task and encourages participation in volunteer endeavors. In fact, service is right there in the 4-H pledge, which says, “I pledge my hands to larger service.”

San Luis Valley 4-H members have volunteered through a variety of activities such as donating hygiene kits to local shelters and migrant farmworker communities; cleaning local cemeteries; making valentines’ bags for senior citizens; planting flowers for landscape beautification and much more!

De Guzman pointed out that the essence of volunteering is really to provide service without rewards. However, there are some tangible benefits that youth can get out of volunteering. They can gain skills that might improve their marketability and enhance their resumes. These benefits might make them more attractive to future employers or colleges.

In this season of giving I encourage all families to get their children to commit, or re-commit, to making volunteering a part of their lives in the new year. They can do that through groups like 4-H, Scouts, or their local church. If they need ideas about how to get involved, youth can visit sites like DoSomething.org to find volunteering opportunities that interest them. Join the more than 20 million youth volunteering to make our communities a better place in 2018.

Amy Henschen is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Colorado State University Extension. To find out more about Extension and the 4-H program visit http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu or call 719-852-7381. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.