So what exactly is ‘service to others’?  The Search Institute has defined this developmental asset for youth as such:  youth serve in the community one hour or more per week.

Many young people today believe that community service refers to any time they offer their services without receiving compensation.  Though this is a simplified definition of the term, they are missing an important piece.  Community service is most meaningful and appreciated when the services rendered are ones that recipients are actually in need of.  Thus, though it is great when youth offer their time to help mom or dad at their workplace, they should recognize that there are many individuals and groups in the community that are in need of services that they would otherwise not be able to obtain.  Here are some excellent and simple suggestions for youth to serve in the community:

  • Make and send cards to hospitalized children, nursing home residents, or those in the military.
  • Organize or participate in a fundraiser such as a walk or run.  Donate the proceeds to hurricane relief, camp scholarships, or other causes.
  • Organize a community or neighborhood clean-up day.  This may be as simple as walking through your neighborhood with a large trash bag cleaning up debris on the sides of the roads.
  • Clean out your closets and donate unwanted items to a homeless shelter, children’s hospital, or Good Will.

Parents need to realize that as their children’s main role model, they should set the example for service to others.  When your children see you helping other people, they learn that it is the right thing to do and they will receive self-worth and gratification by following your lead.  Whenever possible, involve your children in your own efforts to serve others.  Your children will learn by watching you, but they will learn even more by having a specific job related to the service you are providing.

Community service directly ties in with asset #07:  community values youth.  This is evident every spring following Morgan’s Husky Helper Day, the day when the high school students go out into the community to provide service to others.  I feel quite proud of these youth when I drive around town the following weeks and see all of the ‘thank you, Husky Helpers!” signs posted by community groups and read about how gratified the recipients are in the local papers.  I feel the same sense of pride when I walk into one of the schools and see their ’26 Acts of Kindness’ bulletin boards.  This initiative, which was developed by two Clinton students, is a way to remind everyone that acts of kindness should be followed at all times, and by everyone.  The world is certainly a better one when we are all kind to each other, an asset that many of us seem to have forgotten.

Written by Clinton parent Lori Coco