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There is great character-building, resume-building, and faith-building value to teenage volunteer summer program. Volunteer opportunities for high school students also help them develop time management skills, encourage them to reach out to others, and foster a greater sense of compassion.
But sometimes a student can finish the high school years without a sense of “what’s next”. For many reasons, sometimes college is not the next step; and perhaps further community service, volunteer work, or travel – or a combination thereof – can be just the ticket!
A while back I did a post on how to help your teen have a successful gap year. Gap years are becoming more and more common and for good reason. When you combine the skyrocketing cost of college and the fact that many grads may go for quite a while before getting a job in their field, let alone one with a salary which enables them to pay off their loans, well, taking a year off to determine a future course of action sounds like it deserves some sober consideration.
That being said, however, I’m not suggesting that your son or daughter take the time off to merely flip burgers – unless they have a burning desire to work up the ladder and become a franchise owner of some sort – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either!
But anyway, after publishing that post, I got lots of emails and comments from people who were asking for some suggestions for good gap year programs that they could look into. So after quite a bit of personal research (and yes, getting on a seemingly-endless amount of mailing lists!), here is the first version of my list. I’m still looking into more work-related programs, so stay tuned for those. And if you’re interested in an interesting alternative to college as an after high school track, check out what I have to say about Praxis, a program that our kiddo #3 is currently working through.
Looking for a community service trip for your high school student?
Many of these programs below are also available to mature high school students who are seeking to serve their community at large. As our world has “shrunk” over time due to the access the internet provides, many teens are eager to put their gifts and talents to use in other countries and are looking for a platform to make that happen. But even if your teen is not sure of his plan after college, travel can also lead to the discovery of a future career path and purpose!
In the meantime, summer is a comin’, so to help you and your teen get started with the search, let’s get started!
Preparing for Missions Opportunities
First of all, to set the stage, take a look at this really neat online magazine. TeenLife has their “Guide to Gap Year Programs” set up to read like a magazine on your computer screen. Open it and read up on important information to know, such as gap year money management, safety, and considerations as you’re making your plans.
And if your child is truly college-bound, but maybe just not ready to commit yet, this guest post on Lori Lane’s blog The End in Mind, outlines 3 Ways Mission Trips Can Help Your Child Earn College Admission and Scholarships.
GoAbroad.com has recently updated their site with the 13 Best Volunteer Abroad Programs for 2018-2019.
And this article, Volunteer Abroad for College Students 2018, from the InternationalVolunteerHQ.com blog, covers important consideration you and your teen will want to investigate as you do your own personal research.
Many parents and young adults are concerned about what happens if you get injured or ill while overseas. InternationalSOS is an organization that works with your own insurance provider to cover any medical needs your student might have while abroad. Read about how they work here.
Exciting Mission Opportunities for your student’s gap year
Now down to the nitty-gritty. Take your time perusing the sites below. If at all possible, it’s best to do this with your teen; if not, you may want to take a look and then pass on links that may light a spark. Most programs, if not all, have phone numbers or chat abilities so you can find answers to any specific questions you might have.
- Catholic Volunteering has some really intriguing ideas here. (I mean what exactly IS “Virtual Volunteering?”) And they have both year-long internships and job postings listed on their website.
- The Volunteers of America and the Major League Baseball Players Trust have partnered together to encourage teens to get involved in their communities. The program looks like a great way to develop teen leadership skills as well.
- Latitude Global Volunteering offers worldwide programs for youths aged 17-25. A truly exciting variety is available in programs such as outdoor recreation, rural health care, teaching English abroad, and assisting disadvantaged/handicapped youth.
- LoveVolunteers offers over 120 rewarding, safe and affordable volunteering opportunities in developing countries around the world!
- WorldStamp enables you to take 9 months to explore 3 amazing countries: India, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Their motto is “Let the world be your classroom. Step outside your comfort zone, explore new cultures and make an impact on the world.”
- MissionAdventures describes themselves as a “full-service short-term outreach ministry for groups.” But you can go anywhere from the Outback to Latvia to India to Alaska and beyond with them! An arm of YWAM…
- YWAM (Youth With a Mission) has been around for years. This particular program is geared towards kids and teens, however, and they also have programs for family-oriented training in their Discipleship Training Schools.
- Teen Missions International has some exciting short-term mission opportunities for your high schooler this summer. Their post here lays out many of the benefits of and skills learned through missions for teens…and they also have info on a Gap year program (scroll down to the end…)
If you’re considering mission opportunities for teens
If you’ve got high schoolers at home, it’s important to remember (at least) two things:
- there are many “real life” experiences that your child can benefit from in terms of learning, and
- college isn’t necessarily the next step for everyone!
Guiding your teen into their future life’s work is a process, yes, but no high school guidance counselor is as qualified as you are. YOU understand your child’s skills, gifts, and weaknesses, his learning style, his interests.
So look into these programs with your student and determine together if one or two might be a good fit. Of course, even if they aren’t, remember that this is the best time in life for your young adult to try something new and different. As we (parents) all know, it gets harder to be spontaneous as responsibilities are added in life. Encourage your teen to keep his mind open and curious, and allow yourself to be encouraging and “trust the process,” too!
At the end of the day, keep in mind that mission trips are most assuredly life-changing experiences…and that’s exactly “where your teen is at” these days!