One of the requirements to graduate high school is volunteer hours. In Palm Beach County students are required to log 25 hours of community service. Although the requirement is relatively low, most students go above and beyond to achieve scholarships and to get into the colleges of their choice. Many students finish their high school careers with hundreds of hours cited on their college and scholarship applications.
However, it has become much more difficult to get those volunteer hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying quarantine. Before the pandemic students used to volunteer at places such as libraries, summer camps, schools, and organizations. Now that students cannot be in small groups, much less larger ones, it is harder than ever to find safe ways to get the needed volunteer hours.
A great way for students to find volunteer opportunities that interest them is by using a website such as volunteermatch.org. Depending on whether the student is looking for virtual volunteer opportunities or in-person opportunities, this website has it all. The opportunities are posted much like ads, and students can eliminate opportunities through filters.
If high school students set the filter to opportunities for teens, the site displays all the opportunities in the students’ selected geographical radius, along with virtual volunteer opportunities all over the United States.
Currently, students can find virtual opportunities such as making masks for homeless people and fundraising and promoting charities. There are also opportunities for earning volunteer hours through making and/or writing cards for the elderly, military, patients in children wards, medical field workers, etc.
In general, places such as parks and nature centers are great places to volunteer. They are outdoors and a lot safer than volunteering indoors would be. An example of a place nearby that accepts volunteers is Daggerwing Nature Center. Charity walks and outdoor farmers markets are also great places to volunteer.
Recently the Olympic Heights Compete to Give Club volunteered at the 7th Annual Brain Bowl at South County Regional Park. This was an outdoor event to end alzheimers and is a great example of a perfect volunteer opportunity.
All day outdoor events meet most, if not all, of most people’s criteria during this time. Outdoor activities are proven to be less likely to transmit the coronavirus, people are expected to wear masks, and students can typically earn six or more community service hours at such events.
Beach cleanups, which are happening quite frequently along the South Florida coastline, are also great events to participate in. Students looking to participate can usually find those events through an internet search. Sometimes OH clubs organize beach cleanups, so students should be listening for those opportunities during announcements.
However, due to the pandemic, it is important to check if places are accepting new volunteers, or volunteers at all. Many places are still only allowing staff or both staff and existing volunteers to help reduce their potential exposure.
Students should be sure to seek out volunteer opportunities that match their interests and abilities. Overall while volunteering looks a little different these days, be it while breathing through a mask or looking through a screen, it can still be done while being an enjoyable, interesting, and rewarding experience.