Thoughtful Parenting: Youth can serve community and reap benefits | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Youth can serve community and reap benefits

Sue Fegelein/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Whether it's to connect more with the community, serve others or even simply get a ski pass, many in our community choose to give back by volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are many, and those benefits extend to our youth as well.

Volunteering not only gives kids a better sense of community connectedness but also reduces engagement in risky behavior. Reports show that volunteering contributes to higher levels of self-esteem, higher graduation rates and academic success and positive civic behavior.

Youth who volunteer are also exposed to different skills, social behaviors and networking opportunities. Kids who volunteer get the chance to see how organizations work from the inside and gain a greater understanding of operations. Not surprisingly, volunteering increases the likelihood of finding employment.

Some of our local schools require a certain number of volunteer hours from our students. We are fortunate to have a thriving network of nonprofit organizations in our community where kids can fulfill those requirements or where any youth can choose to volunteer. Children should contact the organization they choose beforehand to speak to the right person about volunteer opportunities and requirements.

Students volunteering for their school's community service requirement should check first with the appropriate person at their school to make sure the volunteer opportunity that they choose is acceptable.

LiftUp of Routt County welcomes youth volunteers of all ages — younger ones with an adult — in its food banks, accepts volunteers in middle school and high school in its thrift store and accepts youth 16 an dolder in its donation center. Kids are encouraged to participate in food drives, and teams or groups can also sign up to lead its monthly fresh produce drives at City Market.

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Routt County Humane Society offers volunteer opportunities for youth. Younger kids can read to the cats; junior volunteers younger than 18 can assist with feeding animals, taking animal photos for Facebook and other shelter chores. Rocky Mountain Youth Corps Service Learning Crew offers kids age 11 to 13 many community volunteerism opportunities. Routt County United Way invites youth to volunteer at their Thanksgiving Community Dinner, the Day of Caring, the Holiday Exchange Market and other events.

Yampatika accepts youth volunteers at their summer camps, their Fall Festival and other activities. Integrated Community utilizes youth for tutoring English Language Learner students in schools through its Study Friends program and offers various community service opportunities for middle schoolers. Steamboat STARS Junior Mentor program utilizes high school students to support its summer programs. Boys and Girls Club, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Old Town Hot Springs, Steamboat Soccer Club and many other local organizations, churches and schools offer volunteer opportunities for youth as well.

Watch Steamboat Pilot & Today for new, local volunteer opportunities in the upcoming Get Involved Routt County article, which will soon be published every Tuesday.

Searching for the right volunteer opportunity can be a lot like searching for a paying job. Youth should ask themselves what it is they care about or have an interest in and find an organization that aligns with their passions and goals.

They should be able to commit to the time asked of them by the organization. Encourage our children to participate in making our community stronger by volunteering — not only will they learn the value of service, but they will develop important life skills along the way.

Sue Fegelein is the executive director of LiftUp of Routt County and co-owner of Powder Day Donuts.

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