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Youth in America: Teens as volunteers

Youth between 12 and 18Teen volunteer at the rate of 55 percent – more than one and a half times the adult rate of 29 percent.

There are many studies that show the more regularly a teen volunteers, the more civically and politically engaged that teen is in his or her community and world. So what type of teens volunteer and how do they become involved? A 2004 Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) study made the following conclusions:

  • Teens with at least one parent or family member who volunteers is more likely to volunteer than teens with no volunteering family members.
  • Students who attend religious services regularly tend to volunteer more, as do students who report doing better in school.
  • Many youth volunteer as part of a school activity, many of which also have a service-learning component.
  • Youth volunteer most often with three types of organizations: religious, schools and youth leadership organizations including 4-H Clubs, Boy and Girl Scouts, Key Club (Kiwanis) and the National Honor Society.

The CNCS study states, “An estimated 15.5 million teenagers participated in volunteer activities, contributing more than 1.3 billion hours of service. That translates into a rate of 55 percent – more than one and a half times the adult [volunteer] rate of 29 percent.” While these teens, whose ages fall between 12 and 18 years old, report more hours as a population, the study showed that they tend to serve fewer hours and with less regularity than adults when their hours are reported as individuals. For example, the typical teen volunteer reports 29 hours of service each year; an adult volunteer reports 52 hours of service each year.

The intensity of the volunteering may vary greatly, but it is safe to assume that regardless of the amount of time a teen volunteers or the intensity with which they do it, their service leaves a lasting impression on them and the community they serve.

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