Social Justice, Tzedek, Service Learning or Tikkun Olam; Whatever you call it, community service has become an addition to many high school resumes in order for college-bound students to stand out among fellow applicants.
According to Angel Perez, associate dean of admissions at Claremont McKenna College in California, “Colleges these days want students that are interested in the world around them, are consciously aware of local and global issues and want to "get their hands dirty" by volunteering and approaching world issues in a pragmatic manner.” Perez is also a member of the Current Trends and Futures Issues committee for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
If you are not involved in anything, do not panic yet. Seniors still have a couple months to jump into a most likely small but meaningful project. Juniors can invest a little more time in a bigger project or several small ones. Of course, there is a lot you can do but it is important to not be frivolous in choosing a project.
“We are aware that some students volunteer once or twice to spice up their application,” said Perez. “Students should not choose an extra curricular activity based on their hopes of getting into college. They should choose an activity because they find it interesting, and genuinely would like to engage in that particular area.”
Need help figuring out what to do? Below is a list of suggested project ideas. Used them or let them guide you through creating your own project.
Create customized teddy bears at an area Build-A-Bear store for sick children at a local hospital.
Work with your town to renovate an abandoned field into a ballpark or soccer field; Organize a tournament to raise money for equipment and/or upkeep.
Work with Habitat for Humanity to build a house or two.
Clear hiking and bike trails in your area that may have become overgrown or obstructed.
Assist in the renovations of a local community center or school.
Repair or paint playground equipment for a local school or park.
Organize a “Dress for Success” campaign and collect business clothes or even tuxedos and prom dresses for those who cannot afford them.
Read to children at local libraries on a regular basis.
Teach English or other languages to children, senior citizens or even your peers.
Provide free music lessons for underprivileged children or to residents at a nursing home.
Record books on tape for the blind, those learning to read or those with learning disabilities.
Raise awareness about issues affecting the homeless by organizing a supervised group to sleep in front of the town’s city hall, or on the grounds of your high school.
Collect mini-toiletries and prepare toiletry kits for residents of homeless or women’s shelters. Reach out to local hotels for donations; you will be surprised at how willing they are to provide you with products.
Pledge a certain amount of volunteer hours at a local food bank for every item of donated food.
Organize a food/toy drive for animals at a shelter or local Humane Society.
Organize a dog walk or offer to provide baths for pets with proceeds benefiting the local Humane Society or animal shelter.
Throw a party or carnival for underprivileged children or work with a local children’s hospital to organize this type of event for terminally ill children.
Create a Big Brother/Big Sister program between your high school and a local elementary school.
Sponsor a blood drive on behalf of Magen David Adom or a bone marrow donor drive through the Gift of Life campaign.
Create a pen-pal program between your high school and a local nursing home or assisted living facility.
Adopt a grandparent and run errands for them, deliver their groceries, help maintain their home.
Organize a river/beach/park/watershed cleanup in your area.
Organize a beautification day in your town or at a specific location in your town laying down fresh mulch and planting flowers or trees.
Organize a community garage-sale day or rummage sale giving all proceeds to a charity of your choice.
Work with local school/team coaches to organize a day-long community sports-clinic. (Bonus idea: Try to get local sports celebrities to make an appearance).
Organize a used-book drive (Bonus idea: If your school requires text book purchase or discontinues use of older editions, collect unwanted text books at the end of every semester/school year to donate to the local library or schools in lower-income areas).
Though you many not yet be old enough to vote, hold voting registration drives to register low-income individuals or non-registered community members.