I used to work in a zoo. Yes, a zoo. While this may seem silly, bizarre, or abnormal, I learned a lot from being around seals, baboons, and alpacas. I would have never expected that volunteering would be useful for me, but it was a quite the experience.
I went to a high school that required community service hours, and most students fulfilled this by working at the local library or at a senior service center. Boring! I wanted to work somewhere fun, something new and unexpected. After some searching around, I found out that the local zoo was in need of some volunteers. After an interview in the wallaby (tiny kangaroo) pen, I was accepted immediately and began spending my Saturdays hanging out with Brooke the sheep.
I was volunteering once a week that summer. Because of the free time, I was able to dedicate myself to learning the materials I needed to teach visitors about our variety of birds and mammals. Best of all, I didn’t need to worry about school. Volunteering over the summer lets you really give your all, so take advantage of it.
The reason I wanted to volunteer at the zoo was because it was a firsttime experience. I’ve never, ever worked with animals before. All I’ve ever had was a pet goldfish! I was worried that someone (including the animals) would get hurt, and a part of me was a little afraid of them.
The great thing about volunteering is that many places are often willing to teach you what you need to know. They probably know you’re new (after all, you’re only in high school) so don’t worry about not knowing how to send that official email or handle the Twitter account. If you can’t get a job because you lacked the skills, volunteering at a nonprofit can help you gain those skills. Volunteering opens you up to new experiences and lets you learn things that might come in handy later.
Another reason I wanted to volunteer was because it would allow me to try something I’ve always wanted to try (but never could!). I like being outdoors and teaching. Yet, I never quite found something in the neighborhood that allowed me to do that. Now that I’m in college (and deciding on majors, and looking for jobs, and all that “adult” stuff), I know what and who I want to work with. It turns out that I’m great with kids, but I’m not so helpful on a stage. Volunteering lets you find out what you like or don’t like, and that’s good too!
So this summer, go out and volunteer! If it’s three days a week, or just an hour or two on a Tuesday night, it doesn’t hurt to try. You’ll learn something new about yourself and hopefully enjoy yourself as well. Have fun!