Teaching teens at a young age to partake in volunteer and service activities will foster a love of it as they become adults. While this may not be a completely teen oriented program, the organization Open Books Ltd is an incredible literacy initiative started by a college classmate of mine. Open Books is a non-profit that operates a bookstore, provides literacy programs to Chicago schools and offers incredible volunteer opportunities for teens and adults. With so many inner-city children falling behind in literacy, it is so important to have opportunities to help in any way possible. Open Books offers writing programs, literacy programs and reading buddy programs to children all over the city. In addition, it is a great opportunity for volunteers who want to work with children. Volunteers can visit children during their lunch hour and work with fluency, comprehension and reading accuracy. Volunteers can become a part of the writing field trip program. These volunteers visit classrooms and help coach students in writing. One of the most intriguing volunteer opportunities to me is the Virtual Mentoring for High School students. Adult volunteers can mentor students through email, instant messaging, or phone conferences. How nice would it be for students to be able to IM a mentor during their computer lab time at school? Or what if a student doesn't have transportation to meet a mentor in person? They can conference over the phone. Teens can volunteer at Open Books events.
So, my point here is that if volunteerism is fostered at an early age, the same teens who helped others as young adults, will continue to do so as adults. The kids who helped pull weeds from a community garden could be the same adult who helps a 5th grader write a poem. And in addition, maybe that 5th grader will become a volunteer when he's an adult. It's a circle that we must keep going.