Leadership is an essential element for success. If you want to do well at college, find your passion and get a great job, developing your leadership skills is a great place to start your journey. Studies show that leadership experiences in high school are linked to greater success in the college setting. What’s more is that most jobs make use of leadership skills as well.
So, how can you learn these important skills? If you want to develop your leadership skills, you should put in some volunteer hours! Through volunteering, you’ll learn the abilities that will help you as a student and later as a professional. How do volunteer opportunities for teens teach leadership?
Great Opportunities co-founder, David Groos, knows exactly how. He’s watched and guided teen volunteers to become leaders since the organization was founded in 2002. Here are some of his insights on how teens can learn leadership from volunteering:
It Comes Naturally
Volunteer work for teens offers a rich tapestry of experiences that can help you discover your inner leader. Can you imagine teaching younger kids how to swim? Or helping them learn how to take care of a bike? That’s exactly what volunteers at Great Opportunities do.
Young people from 8th grade up through freshman college students work with children as “leader, mentor, teachers” or “LMTs”. In their roles, they serve as lifeguards and teachers, give short presentations on topics as diverse as bullying and ecology, and even dress up like Santa!
Whether they’re tying a child’s shoe, teaching them the back-stroke, or planning activities with the program’s leaders, volunteers exercise their leadership skills. For example, they might use organizational skills to plan a class. Or, they might use their emotional intelligence to help an upset child feel better. In another moment, volunteers tap into their motivational skills to get a group of children to work together on a project such as building a boat out of water bottles.
At Great Opportunities, the volunteer program makes an effort to actually teach leadership skills to their volunteers. Groos says that one of the ways they do this is by teaching professional skills to the LMTs. In addition to sending them to life-guarding and first aid classes, they teach teens basic skills like how to introduce themselves.
Have you ever felt a bit nervous about walking up to a stranger, making eye contact, and saying “Hi, my name is…”? Groos says that plenty of teen volunteers start out a bit shy. But, the volunteers at Great Opportunities have to work with lots of other people and organizations, which means they have to get comfortable saying hello. Eventually, a confident introduction with a firm handshake becomes second-nature for volunteers!
You need these leadership skills. Many jobs and academic situations will require you to speak with strangers or even give a presentation in front of a whole audience! A volunteer opportunity is the perfect place to practice these skills.
Groos’ best advice for young people who’d like to become leaders is to “get involved in your school and community!” As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The more people you get to know and life experiences you obtain, the more doors will open for you.
Groos says that he’s seen networking transform the youth in his volunteer program. Former Great Opportunities volunteers have co-authored books and gotten job offers and internships because of the connections they’ve made as volunteers. The key to making these connections? Showing leadership skills like confidence, initiative, and communication.
Are you ready to become a leader? Explore volunteer opportunities with Great Opportunities and other excellent organizations with VolunteerCrowd’s app. You can even share projects with your friends and invite them to join you. Through volunteering, you can become leaders together!