BOISE, Idaho -- It probably won't come as a surprise that Idaho is one of the top states in the country when it comes to volunteerism, but it's not always as common to see children getting involved in volunteering. And it turns out, there tons of reasons for teenagers in particular to volunteer. From a leg up on landing a job to creating a more attractive college resume, kids can benefit in big ways when they give just a little bit of their time, and we caught up with one student volunteer who discovered just that.
You wouldn't know it from talking with her, but local high schooler Taia Wolfe wasn't always as confident as she is today. Says Taia, "I wasn't the most shy but I also wasn't the most outgoing." That changed when Taia was chosen as one of Zoo Boise's ZooTeens - student volunteers who learn public speaking and communication skills by interacting with Zoo visitors during the summer months. Katie Jay, the Zoo's Volunteer Coordinator, says, "[The teens] get to learn different leadership skills, they get to gain experience with public speaking, they get to learn about our animals and also educate our visitors about our animals and our conservation programs that we have."
All of those skills are invaluable to teenagers, but volunteering does more than just hone a student's public speaking ability. It also helps beef up their college resume, and makes them much more appealing to employers.
In fact, as Renee Bade with Serve Idaho, explains, "Individuals who volunteer have a 27 percent more likely chance of getting a job than those who don't volunteer."
Bade is enthusiastic about student volunteers, saying it helps them understand their community and betters the community as a whole, but she cautions parents and kids to do a little gut-check before diving in head first. "Really sit down with your kids," says Bade, "...understand what they're passionate about, what are they interested in."
Being honest about how much time you have to commit to an organization is important too, because as Bade explains, "for young kids, the parent's going to have to volunteer with them, so I think a solid understanding of the time commitment is important."
Once families get all of that figured out, Bade says the next step is easy: "Reach out to those non profits that are interesting to you, directly."
In fact, that's exactly what Taia did with Zoo Boise. She tells us, "My mom saw it in a magazine advertisement and...was like hey, you're interested in animals, so here you go!" And now, three years in, the sky's the limit on what this adventurous volunteer can do. "It really builds your confidence," says Taia, "just talking about animals and getting to try new things."
The ZooTeen program at Zoo Boise- which you can find more information on here - is just one of many volunteer opportunities available to kids and families in the Treasure Valley. To find ways to get involved, visit Serve Idaho here. They have countless resources and ideas on how to get plugged into your local community.