Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Teen's Perspective on Volunteering

I woke up to my blaring alarm clock at 7:00 am and almost fell out of bed. Normally, it’s not a big deal. Usually, I wake up earlier, but it was a Saturday, meaning I aim to skip mornings entirely.

However, after regaining a bit of lucidity I realized today was the day I promised to volunteer at my library. I was one of the members in a reading program for young kids. It was simple enough. Parents who may have work or other responsibilities can drop their child off and my job was to read to them.

After getting there I was directed to the children’s section of the library. I was introduced to a young boy and I asked him what he wanted to be read. He pointed to a children’s anthology, a collection of classics like the Gingerbread Man and Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

More parents came to drop off their children. Some went with others, some chose to stay by me. After two hours and a large pile of books later, my shift was over. Most of the kids were still there and were ushered to my replacement. As I headed out, a few of the kids gave me a few waves and some large smiles. That was about it, but it was more than enough.

I know it’s not the most incredible volunteer opportunity. I doubt that I changed any lives but I did make somebody’s day. That was good enough.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back. I entered high school and became extremely busy. Balancing tests, homework, and jobs; by the time there is a moment of freedom, the only thing you can think about is friends or relaxing. And usually any other time my schedule opens up is at awkward hours, making it impossible to find a place to volunteer.

To add pressure, are the volunteer hour requirements. Now, I know that I should say that volunteering should be done because it’s right, not to get something out of it. That’s absolutely true, but repeating it doesn’t change minds. Still, unless you can find something worthwhile it’s impossible to get through. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to figure out on your own.

Luckily there are places, like the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, to help find opportunities that match you with what you need. This is just one of those things that really become that much easier and that much more rewarding if you’re get a little help.

Submitted by Matt Barnett, High School Senior at the Bergen Academies & Intern at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.

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