17 Community Service Ideas for High School Students
January 9, 2020
17 Meaningful Community Service Ideas
Engaging in volunteering initiatives helps build character, develops empathy and altruism, and supports a bigger cause or group of people. But if you’ve been Googling “community service ideas” in order to find just anything that you think will impress colleges, you’re taking the wrong approach.
Yes, universities look at and appreciate community service experiences, but that shouldn’t be the only reason behind your participation. As a high schooler, you should definitely engage in a community service opportunity that involves a field or group you’re actually invested in and want to actively support. If you’re involved in an initiative or cause that means a lot to you, you’re far more likely to work with diligence and passion rather than feel like it’s something you have to do.
Don’t be afraid to think out of the box when brainstorming community service ideas. To help you navigate through some options and get you started, I’ve outlined suggestions under various categories such as working with children, animals, the environment, neighborhood improvement, and more to inspire community service ideas that resonate with you.
Community Service Ideas Under Different Categories
Start a mentorship group - If you enjoy mentoring others, especially younger people, working with local schools is an effective way to help those that need guidance at a young age. Ask your own teachers whether you can enlist their help in setting up a local mentoring program because if your future aspirations involve working with children, this is a good place to start. When thinking about community service ideas, working as a mentor allows you to make a positive impact, as well as reflect on how helping the next generation is meaningful to you.
Coach a youth sports team – If you’re an athlete or a sports fan, this is an option that offers both a solid leadership opportunity as well as a way to be involved in community service. Think about which sport you would want to coach. If you already participate in a sport yourself, your choice might be straightforward. This is a way to demonstrate your passion towards the game. If there are little leagues or community tournaments in your area, inquire whether they need a coach for an existing team. If not, you can start your own team with your siblings, neighbors, and friends.
Animals and the Environment
Volunteer at an animal shelter - Many of us have pets that we love, but if you want to take it up a notch and make a difference, consider getting involved with your local animal shelter. Volunteers can participate in a variety of capacities, such as helping clean cages, walking dogs, and feeding the animals. If you’re looking to work in a more logistical manner, you can also help organize adoptions, assist with budgets, and serve on the organization committee for events, depending on where you’re needed. If you’re considering becoming a veterinarian or working with animals in the future, this is a method to test the waters to see if you are on the right path.
Host an Earth Day event – If you’re a prospective environmental studies major or just passionate about climate change, take advantage of Earth Day! Earth Day is an appropriate occasion to raise awareness among your peers on relevant issues. Managing your own event for Earth Day can underscore your interest in the field and help establish a new tradition in your school or community. A project like this requires preparation but does not need to be consistently sustained over the course of a year. But if you do want to commit further, why not form a climate action committee with your friends and organize more frequent events?
Community and Neighborhood Improvement
Start a community garden – A community garden is an initiative that not only builds your collaborative skills, but also benefits your entire neighborhood. Community gardens provide fresh produce, get people actively working, and can give you the chance to get to know your neighbors or classmates. This is also an activity that can make for standout application essays, and colleges may see it as an extracurricular you can carry over to the campus community.
Teach a class at the community center – An effective way to further explore a subject you’re passionate about could be by sharing it with others. Check whether you can teach a course on a topic that interests you at your local community center. Think about what your areas of expertise are, whether in Medieval Literature or in East Asian History, and start building a lesson plan! Teaching others within your community is a good way to connect with those around you. You’re helping them can learn while you get some firsthand experience teaching kids, peers, or adults.
Homeless or Hungry
Volunteer and donate to the local food bank - Food banks are an easy way to get involved with a worthy cause. It is also an activity that you can maintain and develop over a number of years. In assisting others gain access to food, you’re helping those with a low-income budget, as well as connecting with the members who frequent the food bank. Not only do you get to see the difference you’re making first-hand, but you have the chance to work on a team and form strong bonds with the people that you’re able to help. One thing to note is that while this activity is powerful, it’s also very common among students. Think about ways to make a greater impact such as hosting pantry donation parties or collaborating with a larger organization to act as a regular donating partner.
Volunteer with a well-established organization – If you’re a part of an organization such as Habitat for Humanity or Planned Parenthood, you’re helping people and working on a cause you care about through these efforts. But this is common among many students, so aim to have more of a leadership position if you’re involved in such organizations. You must separate your involvement from the many others participating by getting more proactive in your efforts to make a difference. You can do so by starting your own fundraiser under these organizations, creating a new workshop, or even hosting a conference and inviting guest speakers.
Individuals with Special Needs
Set up a buddy program through the special needs program at school - If you prefer one-to-one interaction, a buddy or mentoring program for people with special needs could be a good fit. Create a pairing system to figure out the best matches based on different criteria. This builds your own leadership and communication skills. Start early in your high school years, as sticking with a particular person(s) over a number of years would demonstrate your dedication to this kind of mentorship service, as well as build genuine trust and friendship.
Volunteer with the Special Olympics - If you have an interest in athletics, but also want to get involved in supporting people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities, there are many ways to work with the Special Olympics. You can volunteer as a coach, trainer, event organizer, or fundraiser. You’ll get to make a difference at a huge event while working with talented people from all over the world.
Host regular game nights at a nursing home - If you love board games, why not gather a group of friends, your favorite selection of Scrabble, Monopoly, or Taboo, and work with your local nursing home. Bringing entertainment and fun to the elderly can be a rewarding experience on both sides of the coin. You get to bond with the members, as well as play your favorite game. Organizing one event also opens the door to finding additional avenues to help within this network, and you could form a long-term partnership with the center.
Help a senior citizen with a project – You might have always been able to connect well with your grandparents and other elderly folks. When you’re in search of community service ideas, consider combining this passion with the field of your choice. You can work with a senior citizen on an artwork, filmmaking initiative, or genealogy project. Ask them if they have a bucket list – or help them make one – and see how many items you can check off from it together!
Crime Reduction and Safety
Get involved in neighborhood protection – If your residential area has been a frequent location for theft or harassment, start a violence protection group or join a neighborhood watch in the community. If you want to work on this on a smaller scale, you can also start a group at your school if it doesn’t already exist. Work with professionals on training members to ensure that your team knows what to do in certain scenarios, and you’ll be well-versed in the necessary safety protocols.
Volunteer at a fire station - Fire departments can help you learn about safety and observe the inner-workings of an important operation. If you’re looking for community service ideas that involve more physical activity, this could fit you very well. Working at the fire station also builds mental stamina and grit. Few students choose this path, so it’s a more unique opportunity. If it is available in your community and you believe you would be a suitable volunteer, go for it!
Participate in a charity walk or run – If you’re looking for community service ideas that are physical but also involve a lower level of commitment, participating in a run that raises money for a good cause might fulfill your needs. If you’re hoping for a deeper commitment, contact the organizers to see how you can be of assistance. Getting involved with the coordination of this activity can help hone your leadership skills - you will have more opportunities to make an impact firsthand.
Ask for charitable donations instead of gifts – While this is a more passive option among community service ideas, donating to a cause of your choice rather than receiving gifts for a birthday or other holiday is a thoughtful way show commitment to a charitable organization of your choice. Or if you want to raise funds for a community project, ask your loved ones to help out. Facebook now has a feature which allows you to fundraise in a way in which you can easily reach out to your friends and family. Take advantage of crowdfunding services such as GoFundMe to let people know more about your initiative.
Volunteer at the local library - If you are passionate about books and reading, taking part in library services can really help out a staff that may need extra hands. You can sort shelves, start story time events for children, organize book drives, and more. You might take it one step further and check to see if any local schools need help with their libraries or if they event want to start one. Expand your own reading list while helping others gain access to books at the same time.
Brainstorm Your Own Idea
If none of our community service ideas resonate with you, start working on your own community initiative. When brainstorming what kind of project or organization you wish to start, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are some causes that you are passionate about?
- What are the topics that interest you the most?
- What do you feel like your community lacks?
- What kind of role do you wish to play in the initiative?
- How many people do you want involved?
- How much money will you need?
- Will this involve a particular location, or can your members engage remotely?
It won’t happen or grow in a day, or even in a week. Think about whether you want to help others and are authentically interested in making a difference. You can start a volunteering committee for a cause that centers pretty much on any important issue.
If you need funds, Crowdfunding is a donation-based site that raises money without obligations to investors for philanthropy through sites such as Fundly, YouCaring, and GoFundMe. You can compare the websites on Crowdfunding and check which platform works the best for you. Any cause can benefit from raising money and awareness, so talk to your friends and family about why you’re carrying out the initiative, who it’s helping, and how their involvement can make a difference.
If you don’t know where to start, Lion's Heart is an organization that curates teen volunteering opportunities. You are able to join any time during the year in a group with other teens in your area or as an individual member and participate in volunteer opportunities. Support your favorite causes, receive opportunities surrounding them, and track your hours as you participate and lead. Finally, you will also be able to share your achievements with a digital portfolio and qualify for awards such as the President’s Volunteer Service Award, Congressional Awards, and other honors.
Participating in community service and volunteer work can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your high school career – and beyond! Colleges appreciate when you’ve stepped up as a leader and taken the time to help your community. But when thinking about community service ideas, what matters the most is that it comes from a heartfelt interest in making a difference.