Counselor Corner

Critical Topics addressed and evaluated by YHELP!'s Professional Certified Therapist Consultant


Hi Everyone,

The holiday season is in full swing, Lots of eating. Lots of shopping. Lots of talking. Talking about gratitude. Talking about the importance of family and connection. And talking about giving back to your community. The theme of giving back tends to be at an all time high during the fall and winter months each year, and the strong suggestions for youth to participate in such activities can seem overwhelming, especially it if isn’t something you have considered before or if volunteering isn’t something you are into. Often, expressing your disinterest in acts of community service, especially during the holidays, is not well received, and so you may begrudgingly decide to engage in the activities as suggested. And the whole time, you may be thinking to yourself, what is the big deal? Well, let’s talk about it!

Community service, or volunteering (they both refer to the same thing), can be a very big deal. I am sure you know that the end results of service projects bring needed funds, food, support, and revitalization to communities, and provide temporary, and sometimes long term, relief to individuals in those communities. The hours that you unselfishly, or not so unselfishly, give to serve others can change someone’s life; even in the most of unexpected of ways.

Just in case the benefits to the community you serve aren’t enough to motivate you to volunteer your time and energy, I have news! Outside of the warm and fuzzy feelings that often follow participation in such acts of kindness, there are actual long-term benefits for you – the do-gooders! Research has shown that youth who participate in community service have higher levels of self-esteem and resilience. That means that while you are helping others, you are also helping yourself! In addition to those increase, youth who volunteer also tend to learn skills that are useful for employment and beyond, such as teamwork, effective communication, and time management. Even better, many community service projects provide opportunities to connect with others and stay physically active. Volunteering can even be a protective factor against stress, anxiety, and depression. So, if you think about it, community service is really a win-win. Everyone gains!

If I haven’t made a strong enough case for giving community service a try, here is my final pitch. Volunteer work doesn’t have to be boring for you! Pick activities that you already have an interest in and turn them into community service projects! If you have a green thumb, plant and tend a garden. Are you good in the kitchen, make and serve meals, or package and deliver food baskets. If you like sports, teach others how to play your favorite on or start a neighborhood team with kids younger than yourself. Love animals? Shelters and veterinarian offices are usually in need of help. If you think about it for a while, I’m sure you can create a fun and useful project all your own.

The spirit of the holiday season is a great motivator to begin participating community service activities, but your participation is certainly not limited to the holidays. If you are new to volunteering, consider starting with one-time projects, and then try a longer-term project. Be sure to be consistent and reliable once you begin. Seeing a worthwhile task through is another character trait worth developing early. Youth like yourselves have so much talent and heart to offer the world. There is so much good you can do, and, for once, your age is not an obstacle. Trying volunteering. Your future self and your community will thank you for it.

Until next time,

Tamara Carter, LPC, CCTP-II, CGCS

YHELP! Therapist Consultant