Volunteering for a Positive Future
By S C Torrington
What’s your teen doing this summer? Although it may feel too early and too cold to think about events months away in the heat of July, for students looking to earn some mandated service-learning hours during their summer vacation, now is the perfect time to begin finding those volunteer opportunities.
Since the fall of 1993, Maryland’s State Board of Education has required every public school student to be involved in service-learning as a condition of graduation. Specifically, students must complete 75 hours of student service that includes preparation, action and reflection components that, at the discretion of the local school system, may begin during the middle grades. Many locally designed programs in student service have been approved by the State Superintendent of Schools.
The 2005 Youth Volunteering and Civic Engagement Survey, by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau and the nonprofit coalition Independent Sector, shows that an estimated 15.5 million youth, or 55 percent of young people in the U.S., participate in volunteering activities. This rate is nearly twice the adult volunteer rate.
“When young people are engaged in service opportunities, they are less likely to engage in risky behavior and are more likely to feel connected to their communities,” says Desiree Sayle, deputy assistant to the president and director of the USA Freedom Corps on the CNCS’s website.
The survey also constructed a Quality Index based on three important elements of service-learning: planning the service, writing or reflecting on the experience and participating in service activities for at least a semester. The more quality elements, the greater the likelihood that students will report an enhanced sense of empowerment, interest in world events and participation in future volunteering. The Maryland service-learning mandate incorporates all three of those quality elements.
Parents should take an active role in helping their teen select an internship that will clarify the student’s career interests, enhance his or her academic record and provide a fun yet meaningful job experience. A useful source online is the Maryland Student Service Alliance, at www.mdservice-learning.org. In addition, every school has specific teachers and/or guidance counselors to help students plan their programs and make the connection with area businesses.
Although Maryland’s 24 school districts have each designed their student internship programs based on local, unique academic and community needs, many businesses and facilities participate with all schools.
Here are some participating internship programs.
5707 Smith Ave. (The Gallery)
Baltimore Clayworks is an artist-centered community providing artistic and educational programs in the ceramic arts. Recently having expanding its internships to include some middle school students along with high school students, the facility is flexible with a student’s needs and requirements. Interns can work throughout the year, over the summer or for just a few days. Whatever the timeframe, the program is a combination of administration duties assisting the artists-teachers in the studio.
“We set up interviews to learn what experience interns are looking for,” says Miya Tajima, Intern Coordinator. “We don’t want any disappointments.”
Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
Druid Hill Park
The Junior Zoo Crew is a four-week summer service-learning program for students ages 14 to 17 who are interested in volunteering year round at the Zoo. Participants engage in a wide variety of experiences that provide them with opportunities to serve their community, develop career skills and broaden their understanding of wildlife and wild places. Youth interested in exploring careers related to zoos, science and animals are encouraged to apply. Places in Junior Zoo Crew are limited and admission is competitive. Applications are accepted from January to March.
Maryland Public Library
Contact your Local Branch’s Volunteer Coordinator
Maryland’s Public Information Network
Local libraries are always a favorite with students. Unfortunately, there are usually more applications submitted than positions available. So sign up early. The main tasks for students are shelving books and keeping shelf-reading sections in order, but may vary depending upon efficiency, workload volume and volunteer hours. The Summer Reading Program, which runs from June through August, also utilizes teen volunteer help in the Children’s Department. The libraries are looking for mature, dependable students with a history of being punctual and polite.
Parks and Recreation
Contact your school district’s Service Learning Coordinator and/or your local Parks and Recreation Centers. Some examples of internship programs are:
Anita C. Leigh Estuary Center
700 Otter Point Road
Abingdon, Harford County
/Overlooking one of the last remaining expanses of freshwater tidal marsh in the Upper Chesapeake Bay, the Anita C. Leigh Estuary Center in Harford County is dedicated to research, education and conservation. Marsh Muckers (ages 15 and older) work on a biweekly schedule in pairs and are needed year-round to care for the live reptiles, fish and amphibians. Summer positions may include participation in the weeklong day camps, an ongoing Box Turtle Survey, a new Deer Population Survey and other research monitoring.
As Bob Finton, Park Naturalist says, “Extra hands are always needed.”
Bear Branch Nature Center
300 John Owings Road
Westminster, Carroll County
Located in the rolling hills of northern Carroll County next to Hashawha Environmental Center, the Bear Branch Nature Center provides nature study and environmental education, programs for school groups, youth groups and for all ages focusing on native plant and animal life. Volunteer opportunities vary with the age of the teens, who must be 14 or older. During the summer, teens who apply and attend the June training can assist as counselors for the weekly day camps. Shorter, drop-in help is always appreciated as Trail Brazers for clean-up and gardening needs. Younger teens, ages 12 to 14 years old, can participate with an adult.
Cromwell Valley Park
2002 Cromwell Bridge Road
Parkville, Baltimore County
This 371-acre stream valley park is comprised of pasture, cultivated gardens, open fields, woods, hedgerows, orchards and wooded piedmont hills. The diversity of this habitat makes it an excellent area for wildlife and the size of the park necessitates a lot of help. Teen volunteers must be 14 years old and up and able to work independently. Duties could include grounds maintenance, removal of invasive plant species and helping with its popular summer camps. BC