Community Service Hours for Teens: What, Why, & How

Community service is a lifeline to many people in your local community. From animal care to disaster response, veterans assistance to building projects, there’s a place for you to serve no matter what your interests. And as a teen, you can benefit in dozens of ways from giving your time and energy to a local, regional, national or even international cause. This article will explore the what community service hours for teens look like, the benefits of volunteering, and how to make the most of your community service hours.

Why Is Community Service Important?

Most colleges request a summary of any community service you’ve completed during high school. Not only does this type of volunteer work make your college application look great, but it can change you as an individual for the better. 

Getting out into your community and lending a hand gives you a broader sense of what’s going on in your community, what various people groups are experiencing, and a growing awareness of lifestyles and situations different from your own. You may experience different cultures and practices. All of which make you a more well-rounded person and increases your sense of empathy towards others. These are lessons and realizations you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

And the obvious answer — community service is important because it helps meet people’s needs and elevates the community. We are all better when we help others improve their situations.

What Counts as Community Service for Teens?

Any time you’re giving of yourself without pay to help someone or something, you can count that time as community service. For example, volunteering at local organizations or taking part in organized events are both considered community service.

Community service can take many forms. Below are just a few types of volunteer work available in most communities:

  • Financial / Legal Services
  • Animal Shelters
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Children’s Services 
  • Mentoring
  • Summer Camps
  • Child Care
  • Free Tutoring
  • Mental Health Services
  • Healthy / Hospice Services
  • Disability Groups (autism, hearing / speech / vision / physical impairment)
  • Sports Teams
  • Disaster Response Organizations
  • Environmental Organizations
  • Parks
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Religious Groups
  • Resale Shops
  • Furniture Banks
  • Summer Meal Programs
  • Food Banks

This list is just the beginning of ways you can give your time and energy to volunteering. If you’re at a loss what direction to choose, think about what career you plan to pursue and choose something that relates. If you want to become a veterinarian, an obvious choice would be helping animals. But also consider something in the medical field, even if it’s work with humans. If you’re interested in environmental studies, consider some volunteer time with the farmer’s market, a local agriculture group, or a disaster response organization. 

What are the Benefits of Community Service Hours for Teens?

Maximize Community Service Hours

No one wants obligatory projects. Doing community service work just to check the boxes can make every hour tedious and long. To mitigate this sense of dread, choose projects or causes that are important to you. The more you can get behind the work you do, the more effective you’ll be, the more change you’ll make happen, and the more you’ll want to show up to do the work. You’ll gleefully count the hours that sped by faster than you could have imagined.

Practice Goal Setting & Achievement

Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice setting goals, tracking your progress, and achieving them, whether it be volunteer hours completed, people reached, pounds of trash collected, or dogs socialized at the shelter. When you’re pursuing something you’re passionate about, you’ll speed towards your goals quickly — with enthusiasm! (Learn more about creating and achieving SMART goals here.)

Develop Leadership Skills Through Volunteering

Most volunteer work requires you to take ownership of a task or assignment. You’ll have to decide on how best to get things done, how to use the resources available to you, and how to get by without others. You develop a team mentality. The more you accomplish, the more your confidence will grow. The more you serve, the better leader you’ll become. Volunteering will teach you leadership skills that would otherwise take years to develop.

Connect with Local Organizations

Most of us are unaware of all the things being done for others in our community. Until you dig in and start looking, you may not realize there’s a Fix-It Fair at the library every third Saturday where people make their skills available to repair all sorts of things to save them from the landfill. You may not realize that the corner house on Pine Street is actually a Cat Sanctuary where people show up each evening to clean, water, and feed the cats.

Most of the time, getting involved takes a simple phone call and a can-do attitude.

Here are some national organizations to check out if you’re looking for opportunities:

  • Youth Volunteer Corps: a network of affiliated organizations across the U.S. and Canada that engage youth ages 11-18 in team-based, structured, diverse, flexible service-learning opportunities.
  • Lion’s Heart Service: curates teen volunteer opportunities for thousands of national and local non-profits
  • Boys and Girls Club: enables all young people, especially those who need them most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens
  • American Red Cross: prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors
  • YWCA: dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all
  • Habitat for Humanity: brings people together to build homes, communities and hope