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Here's what parents recommend as the top community service opportunities for teens.

By Maressa Brown and Ashley Clayton Kay
Updated March 26, 2021
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Whether their school district requires volunteer hours to graduate or your teen is simply interested in giving back, there are a wide variety of community service opportunities for them. If you and your high schooler are looking for the best way for them to get involved and make a difference around town, you're likely curious about the volunteer gigs other parents have found to be especially fulfilling for their teens.

Cozi, the top organizing app for families, surveyed real parents on the subject. Here are 10 volunteer opportunities they say made for a wonderful learning experience for their kids, along with one more we think is worth mentioning.

Before looking into any of these volunteer options, it's a great idea to call and see what protocols and changes they've made during the pandemic. It's important to be safe no matter what volunteering opportunities your teen chooses.

1. AYSO 

The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) looks for youth volunteers to ref or coach. And no problem if your teen didn't play soccer in the past. The organization says it has "developed special training to help volunteers who may have little or no soccer experience quickly gain the age-appropriate knowledge and skills they need to become outstanding coaches."

2. Boy Scouts of America

The nationwide organization encourages Scouts to do service projects as one way to "keep their promise 'to help other people,'" which has made many parents of teens fans of the Boys Scouts. Although they're encouraged to help other people every day, group service projects teach Scouts to give back to their community in a bigger way.

3. Girl Scouts of America

Parents love how this nationwide organization encourages troops to find ways to better their community and pay it forward. The site notes, "Giving back is always in season at Girl Scouts, so encourage your girls to harness that spirit of goodwill and bring their charitable intentions to life!"

4. Special Olympics

Parents sing the praises of the Special Olympics. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to become coaches, trainers, officials, event organizers, fundraisers, managers, and unified partners—playing alongside athletes with intellectual disabilities.

5. Habitat for Humanity

Teens who work with Habitat for Humanity are given the opportunity to help improve entire neighborhoods and, in turn, assist families with achieving "the strength, stability, and independence they need to build a better life," according to the organization, which offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for people of all ages.

6. YMCA

The YMCA is the leading nonprofit for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, and it relies heavily on support from volunteers. Parents say their teens have enjoyed giving back through the organization and even been offered employment later on.

7. Humane Society of the U.S.

Parents say their young animal lovers enjoy working with the Humane Society (HSUS) to help with animals that have been brought to the shelter and/or walking dogs. HSUS says there are more than 60 unique ways to volunteer to help animals all around the country and in your community.

8. Pet therapy

Here's another idea for animal-loving kids and their parents. Through organizations like Pet Partners, children as young as 10 can volunteer as therapy pet handlers as long as they are supervised by a parent. Teens can provide therapy pet services to local nursing homes and hospitals on their own. If you're wondering what the difference is between a service animal, an emotional support animal, and therapy animal—learn the terminology here. Don't have a dog or cat? You can register rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, birds, and more!

9. Local hospital

Parents are proud of their teens for making blankets or cuddling babies in the NICU, assisting visitors, or working with seniors. These are just a few of many volunteer tasks offered by local hospitals.

10. Food banks

Parents say their teens have learned and grown by working at food banks, like those run by Feeding America. Helping out with this cause is even more important during the pandemic as food insecurity has increased across the country.

11. 4-H

Kids of all ages are encouraged by their parents to do volunteer work (like helping out at nursery homes and aiding people with disabilities) with 4-H, America's largest youth development organization, which is devoted to "empowering nearly six million young people across the U.S. with the skills to lead for a lifetime."

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