By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

When school stops for the summer, students are all relieved to be free from homework, lectures, assignments, and tests. It’s time to sleep in, hang out with friends, or travel to the beach. While summer is generally filled with lots of fun and relaxing activities, it's also a great time to engage in meaningful service. Get off the couch or computer and be part of the community. Here are a few ways to incorporate service into your summer:

1. Expand on Current Projects: Think of some of the service work you already do, and consider using your extra time for a greater impact. Expand your commitments by signing up for more hours during the week at the library or soup kitchen where you volunteer during the school year. Use the summer to reflect on the service projects you did during the school year. Consider how you can help those nonprofits adapt to changes or expand their outreach.  

2. Try Something New: Always wanted to volunteer somewhere, but never had the time during school? Why not look into a nearby zoo, museum, science center, or visual arts center to see if they need volunteers. Often teens must pass up opportunities during school hours, but in the summer you can finally take advantage of some fun opportunities in the daytime.


3. Work at a Summer Camp:  Whether you loved going to summer camp as a kid or dreaded it, you probably remember seeing teen volunteers helping the counselors. Now you’ve outgrown Day Camp. It’s time to be one of the “big kids” you once looked up to. You know, the ones who refereed dodge ball and set up the finger painting! Many camps allow teens to start as trainee volunteers and then move up to working as counselors one or two summers later. You’ll be put in charge of all sorts of activities like sports, crafts, games, and snack time. You’re sure to find something you enjoy doing. Look up camp programs at your local community center to see what opportunities are in store.  

4. Host a Service or Donation Event: Incorporate service into you social calendar. Invite friends to a pool party and ask them to bring canned or dry foods for a local food bank. Get your crafty pals together to make jewelry to sell or have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to charity. Convince your family to participate in a beach or river clean up. Whatever you decide to do, participating in service with friends and family allows you to spend your summer time with those you care about while helping others. 

5. Help the Local Animal Shelter: If you love animals, this is a great place to spend your summer. Lend a helping hand in walking, cleaning, and caring for animals without homes.  You’ll want to keep coming back to help your cute furry friends during the summer.

6. Build your Career through Volunteering: Apply for volunteer internships this summer where you can gain professional skills and experience. With so much free time during the summer, you can devote more service hours to learning about fields that interest you. You’ll make great connections, as well as enhance your college applications by using your summer to learn and grow.

7. Help a Neighbor: Offer to do yard work for a neighbor who needs assistance. Get to work planting some new flowers to brighten their day, clean up the overgrown bushes, and mow the grass. It may be hot and laborious, but you’ll be using your time to put a smile on someone’s face. 

8. Visit Nursing Homes: Visit the elderly and keep them company by reading books, playing games, or just chatting for a while.  Help host events and activities. Tech-savvy teens can help someone connect with email or social networking to keep in touch with distant relatives. Just spending some time with a senior citizen can brighten his or her day and yours too. You’ll make new friends and hear stories outside the texting and tweeting generation. 

9. Be an Environmental Advocate:  The environment, and the damage humans are causing, is a growing concern today. Do your part to help Mother Earth. Plant trees and gardens to clean the air. Learn how to compost to help your new plants thrive. Connect with local organizations to promote recycling or teach people what can and cannot be recycled at your local plant. Participate in park clean up events to free local wildlife from litter and pollution. During the summer, we spend more time outside playing sports, going to the beach, hiking, swimming, and more. It’s important to give back to the earth. To continue enjoying life here on our only planet, it’s vital that we put time and effort into keeping it sustainable, healthy, and clean.  

10. Host a Book Drive: Not all public schools are funded equally, and cutbacks make matters worse. You may not be thinking about school in the summer, but organizing a book drive will help students when class is back in session. Access to more books means students can improve their literacy, reading comprehension skills, and critical thinking. Start in the beginning of summer and you’ll have more time to collect lots of books for the start of the school year!

When the summer’s over, you’ll want to have fond memories to look back on. Knowing that some of your time spent was to benefit others is an added bonus. Remember that service should not be boring to you. This is your personal contribution to others and to a cause you care about, and, since it’s summer, it should also be fun. Think about what interests you and what you love to do, and then try to share your passion with others to better the world. Here’s to the summer, and to making it both memorable and meaningful.  

Are you looking for summer volunteer opportunities? Sign up for your free NobleHour account today to find meaningful service events near you!

Natasha Derezinski-Choo is a student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She started volunteering in high school and hasn’t stopped since! Natasha enjoys writing poetry, cooking, and traveling. Wherever she goes, she always wants to experience something new.