Thoughtful Parenting: How giving back sows seeds of positivity in young adults

Weslie Detwiler/For the Steamboat Today

For many people who enjoy a lifestyle of giving — that is, giving of time or money for the well-being of others without the expectation of pay or other benefit — some satisfaction or delight in giving was likely perceived as a child.

According to a 2011 brief prepared by the National Collaboration for Youth, participants in the Teen Outreach Program, a teen service-learning program, “(participants) had significantly less risk of pregnancy, school suspension, and course failure compared to controls, and the more volunteer hours participants worked, the smaller the risk for course failure.”

If giving back to the community can help young people in areas as great and as measurable as these, imagine the qualitative impacts — such as confidence, competence, happiness and healthiness — that volunteerism could have on the lives of youths.

Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota, agrees that the impacts of community service are noteworthy.

“People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being and happiness,” Snyder said. “All of these things go up as their feelings of social connectedness goes up, which in reality, it does. It also improves their health and even their longevity.”

It’s fairly clear that the experts have had their say, but what about the young volunteers themselves?

Kira Savalox, a sixth grade student at Steamboat Springs Middle School and member of the Boys & Girls Club, has enjoyed her recent opportunities to volunteer in the community. From her experiences, she has learned “to take pride in your work and (to not) always expect something out of it.”

Kira said that you should serve the community “for the good in your heart, not for the payment. It makes me feel like I am doing the right thing and being a good person and rubbing off on my peers.”

Even if your child isn’t this immediately interested in the concept of giving, volunteering as a family or group of friends may set him or her on the right track to a lifetime of service and positivity. The seeds of love, commitment and caring that are planted in young people today, if nourished, will only grow stronger and more steadfast with time.

Ways for young adults to get involved in the community:

• Senior living facilities: Play Bingo or make crafts with residents

• After-school programs: Interact and play with younger kids; be a positive role model

• Food banks/assistance programs: Help clean facilities and stock items

• Animal shelters: Make toys for animals; help clean facilities

Other ideas for young people to give back:

• Write letters to service members or Peace Corps volunteers

• Make treats and hand them out to people who make a difference in the community like police officers, firemen, teachers, librarians, etc.

• Deliver cookies to patients as part of the cookie cart at a nearby hospital

• Serve food at a local church community meal

Weslie Detwiler is an intern with the Episcopal Service Corps. She is acting as Club Specialist at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs, a youth development organization that seeks to provide leadership and character education, tutoring and homework help, and a safe, positive place for kids in the community. Boys & Girls Club is a member of the Routt County Youth Services Coalition, whose website can be found at

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