Looking for a way to combat summer boredom? One tried-and-true method of catapulting oneself out of the quotidian is by helping others. Volunteer work builds character, encourages leadership abilities and an outgoing attitude, and not only looks great on a college application, but also provides experience that can help you feel more fulfilled, happy, and productive throughout your life. Why not commit some of your time this summer to building a better you?
We’ve compiled ideas about volunteering for you to check out below. They are separated into three categories: volunteer organizations, local agencies you can work with around your schedule, and travel opportunities that are still accepting volunteer applications.
NATIONAL VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATIONS
Volunteer Match is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive volunteer organizations. Sit down and brainstorm about what you like to do, what you’d like to learn, or who you’d like to help, then type in your search terms, watch informational videos, and explore the database for opportunities you’ve never even thought of!
If you already have plans this summer or aren’t yet sure about your family’s plans, take a look at Volunteer Houston. The following link will lead you to more information about various ways for families to volunteer together and for teens to volunteer on their own. Volunteer Houston offers not only individual volunteer projects and programs, but also has commitment options for students who are pumped about getting involved in leadership. For instance, follow the link below to find out about the Volunteer Houston Youth Council, where high school students meet regularly and then advise the main agency on potential new volunteer programs.
When visiting the Volunteer Houston site, you’ll also learn more about The Commanders Program, a week-long meta-course on volunteering for students ages 13-17. In this program, participants learn communication skills, receive diversity training, become acquainted with the concept behind non-profit organizations, and get on the ground for in-service volunteer training. Upon successful completion of the $80 course, participants receive a 20-hour completion certificate. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is already in progress, so look into this opportunity a.s.a.p.!
Dates: June 20-24, July 11-15, August 1-5. All sessions are from 12-4 p.m.
Full information at
Generation On maintains a teen-friendly interactive volunteering website where young folks can find opportunities or plan their own projects.
At Red Cross, you’ll find all kinds of youth volunteer opportunities, including workshops, training courses (like C.P.R. and Babysitting), and more.
Spending most of the summer away from Houston? The Youth Volunteer Corps of America is an umbrella organization that connects young people with a variety of opportunities through United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Camp Fire, local Parks and Recreation departments, and more. This is also a helpful website to explore for ideas about who you might contact in Houston (though YVC doesn’t have a local division).
United Way’s website has an informative “Tips for Volunteering” page as well as an extensive searchable database.
Habitat for Humanity provides opportunities for volunteers of all ages. Whether you want to work locally or have a volunteer travel adventure, commit a few hours or a few weeks, Habitat has something for you.
LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS AND VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
Love the Houston Zoo? Although their competitive 100-hour summer volunteer program deadline has passed, you can organize your own pack of friends or teammates (ages 13+) for Houston Zoo Group Volunteers projects. After completing a few sessions this summer, you’ll have a foot in the door to nab one of the highly-sought positions in the summer program next year, or even a semester-long internship if you plan to attend a local university. Once you’ve organized your group, including 1 adult per 5 teens, contact Rick Ellis at 713-533-6754 for more information.
The Children’s Museum of Houston also has ample opportunities for group volunteer work for kids ages 14 and up. The museum’s intensive summer volunteer deadline has also passed, but consider starting small if you’d like to get in next year!
The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a world-renowned institution and an awesome place to spend your time. Volunteering at the HMNS yields extra benefits: free entry when wearing your volunteer badge, invitations to museum events and openings, and training by specialists and curators. The stated age minimum is 18, but exceptions are considered! Call (713) 639-4656 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Memorial Hermann Hospital offers a year-round teen volunteer program with exceptional benefits, including letters of recommendation after 100 hours are completed. This is a smart option for students who will be in town for most of the summer and want an ongoing volunteer opportunity and a better chance at one of MHH’s Teen Summer Volunteer positions in the future. The minimum requirement is 3 hours/week for 6 months.
Ronald McDonald House in Houston provides lodging for kids undergoing treatment or surgical procedures and their families. Service opportunities in the Family Activity Program are open-ended and focus on providing social interaction to kids who aren’t well enough to get out and play. Grab a few friends (age 16+) and brainstorm some arts and crafts projects, games, or fun lessons to share with the residents.
Urban Harvest is a non-profit organization dedicated to planting and maintaining urban gardens, farms, and orchards. For volunteer information, go to:
Houston SPCA accepts volunteers as young as 15! Applications are processed throughout the year. Orientation sessions for May, June, and July are full, but there are sessions available in August or on a cancellation basis.
Cross-Cultural Solutions offers a variety of overseas volunteer programs. The Teen Volunteer Abroad (for ages 15-17) option is a sweet compromise between what kids want (travelling independently to really cool places with their peers) with what parents need (assurance of full-time supervision, meals, travel medical insurance, knowledge that kids will be held accountable for their whereabouts and participation). Programs are either 1 or 2 weeks long and cost approximately $2,500-$3,500. The organization offers scholarships and fundraising/sponsorship drives. Request more information or apply online. Follow the link below to view real-time information about current openings—there are quite a few!
As participants in the Amigos de las Americas program, students travel to and live in Latin American communities. Along with volunteer work, this experience is geared toward encouraging fluency in Spanish—participants live with Host Families and are immersed in the daily life and activities of life in another culture. The cost (including airfare and travel medical insurance) is $4,700. Applicants must have taken 2 years of high-school Spanish. According to Amigos Alumni, this is a well-loved and oft-repeated program.
Adventures Cross-Country has all kinds of amazing Service Adventures, taking 7th-12th graders to the ends of the earth, from Africa to Australia, China to Costa Rica (and more!). Journeys average 2-4 weeks in duration. Check trip availability and register online:
Global Routes also encourages foreign-language fluency, but only requires one year of high-school Spanish for most programs (requirements vary). As participants in this organization, students live for two to three weeks with a host family in a small village, working on local projects with other volunteers and townspeople.
IFRE Volunteers Abroad organizes 4-week volunteer trips in all corners of the globe. Unlike some of the other travel volunteer organizations, fees for IFRE trips can be as low as $100. Much of the Dallas-based nonprofit company’s work takes place in orphanages. Some destinations include Kenya, Thailand, Nepal, Peru, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia.