Community service is not giving your time up for free. It is an investment in you and your future. Having so many community service hours opened a lot of doors for me. I was awarded several scholarships, including the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Because I was given that competitive scholarship, I graduated college with zero dollars of debt and not a penny came out of my pocket for college. I did the math one day of how much money I got in scholarship divided into how many community service hours I had. It came out to about $67.00 an hour!
My Community Service Experience
Because of my circumstances at the time, I was able to rack up an impressive amount of community service hours. I didn’t know it at the time but that was a hidden blessing for me. When it came time to apply to college, that part of my application really stood out.
Money was always tight for my family. Sending all her kids to summer camp was not really an option for my mom. So, every summer from 7th grade to entering my senior year I volunteered at my brother’s summer camp. He has Down Syndrome and went to a school that tailored to individuals with disabilities. Financially, It was the best option for my mom. Instead of paying for me to go to summer camp I went to volunteer my time. I did that every summer for six years. If you know me, you know I love being around people with disabilities, so it was a really special way for me to get a ton of community service hours. There were campers I wouldn’t see all year, so, come summer I would get to see how much they’d grown and learned in a year. That is special memory for me!
3 Steps to Make the Most Out of Community Service
Step 1: Identify Your Passion
What are you very passionate about? Education, animals, your faith, homeless awareness, cancer awareness, veterans affairs, the environment, human rights, city beautification? Find what moves and shakes you and something you’ll love dedicating time to.
Step 2: Take Action!
Do a little research and find an organization doing community service at your school or where you live, that lights that passion. If you can’t find one that is exactly right, create your own. (There’s leadership right there. Two birds, one stone!) Find a way to support a cause you are passionate about and think of ways to contribute. For example, collect blankets for your local animal shelter, conduct a book drive for a local school, host a canned food drive, etc.
You can also do research and find out about what events or projects local organizations have in place that you may be able to be a part of and may be able to involve your school like an annual 5k or carnival or showcase. Click here for more ideas of places you can get involved!
Step Three: Manage and Use Your Time Wisely
Determine how many hours you have to dedicate to community service, and while you are volunteering, log those hours. If you have extra time, dedicate a few more hours. Reach out to local nonprofit organizations. Many of those places would be overjoyed to have an extra pair of hands! There is always an opportunity to volunteer.
While you plan any of your events and activities ensure that there is an adult or member who can attest to the work you put in. They may come in handy when you are looking for a college recommendation letter later.
In my last post I mentioned four areas to focus on for a superstar college application, including leadership, academics and grades, SAT/ACT scores, and community service. I recommended really honing in on three out of those four categories, without completely neglecting the fourth, of course. Now that you have plenty of information about how to get started with community service, stay tuned to read more about how to make those other areas shine.
By Betty Carricaburu, Ms.Ed