Are you a high school student or a college level student who is thinking of making a career choice soon? Consider creating a service project to support a local non-profit to test your area of interest. Service projects are great ways to get your foot in the door in a field you may be thinking of entering as a career or focus of study. Take animals as an example, in elementary school you always took care of the classroom pet. You fed the squirrels and ducks at your local park, and in middle school you were the go to contact if anyone needed their dog walked while they went to Ocean City for the weekend! In high school, you organized a fundraiser for the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Now what!? Now take your interest a step further….to create a successful and hands on service project. These 10 foolproof steps will help you to develop a meaningful project that will create an impact and make a difference in your community.
Follow these steps and you will be learning valuable skills that look fantastic on a resume or college application, and also provide you with real life experience that you can talk about during interviews!
Getting Started in Service:
1.) Research Your Project.
Choose an issue that concerns you, and then come up with a project related to that issue. Consider these questions.
- What would I like to do?
- What might benefit the most people/animals?
- What can I afford (in terms of time, money, etc.)?
- What is really possible for me to do?
2. Form a team.
If you don’t want to go it alone, or if the project seems too complicated to do by yourself, invite others to join you.
- Choose people who share your interest in the project and who are likely to stay with you until it is completed.
- Look around at your family, friends, school, neighborhood, or community for possibilities.
- Don’t limit your group to people your own age. Invite younger kids to get involved. See if college students and seniors in your area want to help!
3. Find a sponsor.
Ask a responsible adult (teacher, parent, neighbor, community youth leader, etc.) to act as your sponsor. This can give your project credibility with other adults whose help and/or permission you might need.
4. Consider the recipient.
Make sure that the people you plan to serve really want your help. What’s the best way to do this? ASK! Then find out as much about them as you can. For example:
- What are their needs? (They may be different than you think, and you may need to revise your ideas accordingly.)
- When are they available? During what hours on what days?
- Are there any limitations or restrictions? What about special diets? Physical limitations? Allergies? Other health issues?
5. Make a plan.
- Decide when and where to meet. You’ll want to meet frequently to discuss your project, decide who will do what, identify any problems, and report on your progress.
- Define your goal. What do you hope to achieve?
- Set a schedule. How long will your project take? How much time will you spend each week on your project? When is the date you want to be finished with your project?
- Think hard about your project. Is it realistic? Is it too complicated? Too simple? How could you improve it?
6. Decide where you will perform your service.
Will you go to the people you plan to serve, or will they come to you?
- If you go to them, be sure to visit the location ahead of time. Is there enough room to do your project? Does the location have everything you will need? If not, what will you have to bring? How will you get it there? Will you have a place to store things?
- If they come to you, make sure that your location has what you need.
7. Get any permissions you need to proceed.
Depending on your project, you might need to get permission from:
- your principal
- your teacher(s)
- school district personnel
- your youth leader
- your parents
- your neighbors
- community organizations
- owners of any facilities you will want to use
- anyone else?
Let other people know about your project.
- Make a one-page flyer.
- Create a public service announcement.
- Send out a press release.
Do you need start-up money for your service project? Will you need to buy equipment or supplies? If you need to print 150 flyers at your local print shop, who will pay for the printing? If your project will cost anything beyond pocket money, you’ll need to fundraise.
10. When your project has ended, evaluate it.
Reflect on your experience. Discuss it with our team, family, teachers, friends, and neighbors. Talk it over with the people you served. Describe it in a journal or an online blog. Write a poem, story, essay, or play about it; create music, dance or art about it; make a video or audio recording. Try to address questions like:
- What did you learn?
- What did you accomplish?
- What were your feelings, fears, joys?
- Would you do it again?
- How could you improve it?
- Will you repeat it? When? How soon? (you might use your poem, story, essay, play, video, etc., to inspire others to join you.)
This blog is the beginning of our Youth Service Project Planning Series. Check back for service project ideas on subjects like, crime fighting, the environment, health & wellness, animals, and much more!
This information was duplicated from the book “The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects” written by Barbara A. Lewis and published by Free Spirit Publishing, 2009.