Opportunities to Help Others

All children need the chance to make a difference in their families, at schools and in their communities. Knowing how to make a difference comes from having models of caring behavior, awareness of the needs of others, a sense of personal responsibility to contribute to the larger society, and opportunities for volunteering, leadership and service.

Providing young people with opportunities to make a difference through service instills not only a sense of responsibility but of possibility. Young people want to be involved in making the world a better place; however, far too many lack meaningful opportunities to contribute.

According to Every Child, Every Promise:

Nearly half of our children are not experiencing this Promise.
Half of parents of young people say they rarely discuss current events with their children
One-third of young people say they lack adult role models who volunteer and help others
94 percent of young people want to help make the world a better placeYoung volunteers have higher self-esteem, perform better in school, build leadership skills, and learn how to solve community problems. America’s Promise partners are providing numerous opportunities for youth to help their communities.

It's time to see young people as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Yet even though youth are more likely than adults to volunteer, fewer than half of all young people consistently serve others. A result is that they miss this powerful opportunity for growth.

Giving children and adolescents opportunities to serve others is an important strategy in shaping America's future. Though school-based community service has received the most attention, there are many different avenues through which youth can contribute to their communities. These include:

Religious congregations
Neighborhood teams
Service clubs
Family volunteering
Youth organizations

Though service by youth is often "packaged" as a single program run by an organization or social institution, promoting service as a lifelong commitment is enhanced when youth participate at many ages and through multiple avenues, and when opportunity is given to reflect on the act of service -- hence, the term "service-learning."

With appropriate training and support, young people can perform hundreds of different types of service in their communities. An emerging body of research suggests that service-learning experiences enhance self-esteem, a sense of personal competence and efficacy, engagement with school, and social responsibility for others. But remember that youth are much less likely to volunteer if they are not asked.

“Morally and strategically, it seems clear to me that the needs of children and youth should be the main focus of citizen service and community mobilization.”
Harris Wofford
America’s Promise Board Member