How do you spend your time outside of class? While those hours may already be booked by dance lessons, basketball games or fun with friends, consider making time for one more activity: volunteer work. When it comes to pursuits that are beneficial to you and others, nothing beats volunteering.
First and foremost, volunteering is a powerful way to contribute to your community. Whether it’s cozying up to some puppies with The Humane Society or framing a new home with Habitat for Humanity, the time that you invest in volunteering can have a real impact on the lives of others. And there are a lot of students in Arkansas who’ve already discovered the satisfaction that comes with volunteer work.
Look no further than the 24 high school students participating in the Big Role Models program who are serving as both volunteers and advocates for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas (BBBSCA). These students participate in more than 20 hours of education and volunteering in the mentoring program, and know a thing or two about the many pros of volunteering.
“The most rewarding part to me is you get to support other families in need and those people really, genuinely thank you,” said Catherine Forte, one of the Big Role Model program’s participants. “It makes you feel accomplished and, in a sense, have a better heart. It gives you perspective into other people’s lives, and it can really change a person.”
While volunteering is all about serving others, you just may better yourself in the process, too.
Meet Big Role Model Faith Carr. Faith’s high school experience with BBBSCA and other local nonprofits has inspired her to pursue a career caring for others; she wants to be a doctor. “Volunteering has helped me figure out the path I want for my life—what interests me and what I don’t like. It helps me figure out who I am.”
Along with exploring your interests, you can also pick up valuable lessons through volunteer work. For Khaleel Jones, a Big Role Model who has volunteered with soup kitchens and The Rice Depot, the personal interactions that happen when volunteering are great for building communication skills and making friends along the way.
“Volunteering can help you interact with people in the future,” Khaleel said. “It has helped me learn to talk better with others and to meet people just like me.”
At the end of the day, these skills can make you more well rounded and better prepared for life after high school. Your volunteer experiences may even be used as a noteworthy addition to your résumé. In fact, when it comes to college admissions or competitive scholarships, volunteer work can even put you ahead of your peers.
“For our scholarships, we do look for volunteerism—in a student’s community, at their high school, or with a church,” said Nancy Joneshill, Director of Admissions at Crowley’s Ridge College. “We figure if they’ve been involved in volunteer work, that’s the kind of leader we’re looking for.”
No matter how much time you’re able to carve out of your schedule for volunteer work, the commitment you make to your community will always have an impact.
“I think that heartfelt and genuine volunteering at whatever amount is what’s important,” said Colleen Carr, director of the Big Role Models program. “It’s about quality versus quantity.”
According to Big Role Model Garet Melton, volunteering is an activity that is well worth your time, and getting started is easy.
“Go for it! You can start by yourself around your neighborhood or join an organization such as BBBS. No matter how small the work may seem, every bit counts to a better world.”
Ways to Give Back in Your Community
If you’re struggling to find a place to volunteer, look no further. Here are a few places in your region to get started:
Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas, North Little Rock
Heifer International, Little Rock
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, Bentonville
Northwest Arkansas Hunger Relief, Fayetteville
Samaritan Community Center, Rogers and Springdale
Rogers: (479) 636-4198
Springdale: (479) 872-1115
Red Cross: Northeast Arkansas Chapter, Blytheville
The Learning Center, Jonesboro
(870) 932-4245, ext. 21
United Way of Northeast Arkansas, Jonesboro
Give Me A Chance Equine Rescue, Arkadelphia
Heart of Arkansas United Way (Clark County), Arkadelphia
Harvest Texarkana Regional Food Bank, Inc., Texarkana
Southeast Arkansas Regional Library
Located in Bradley, Chicot, Desha, Drew, and Lincoln Counties
The Salvation Army of El Dorado
Humane Society of the Delta, Helena