High school years can be stressful for parents and students alike. Between day-to-day drama, projects, tests and planning for life after graduation, it can be difficult for students to find time to work in community service hours. Parents often end up frustrated when trying to help find fun ways to meet the requirements because they understand that it not only looks good on transcripts – and later resumes – but is also needed for many scholarships and grants.
One of the most well-known scholarships for Florida students is the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program, which offers three types of awards: the Florida Academic Scholars award, the Florida Medallion Scholars award, and the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars award. Students must complete the required high school coursework and meet a minimum grade point average, a minimum SAT score as well as participate in 100, 75 or 30 hours, respectively, of community service to earn a Bright Futures award.
So how can a busy student earn all those service hours without it being a chore? Then requirements can easily be fulfilled in a summer or two at these local organizations (or ones like them).
Central Florida Zoo
Members of the Central Florida Zoo’s Teen Team (ages 13-15) play a vital role in educating visitors about wildlife and conservation issues. Members of the Teen Team receive a special hands-on learning experience unique to the Zoo, from handling animals and presenting wildlife facts to participating in special events. High school students can volunteer for one or two two-hour shifts on Saturdays or during school breaks. Duties include interacting with visitors at several activity stations around the zoo including engaging kids with coloring sheets and insect facts in the Insect Zoo.
Garden Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Students interested in the performing arts will love volunteering at one of Orlando’s local theaters. At the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, volunteers are needed to help theatre patrons to their seats, to take tickets for the shows, and to assist with special events. Orlando Shakespeare Theater positions include ushering, Will Call assistance, administrative support, concessions and more. As a bonus, some theaters even allow volunteers to watch the show if there are seats available and their duties are complete.
Give Kids the World Village
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at Give Kids the World Village, where students can provide hope for kids with life-threatening illnesses. From preparing frosty treats at the Ice Cream Palace to assisting the kids with playing a life-sized version of Candy Land or leading an arts and crafts session at Ashley’s Art Corner, volunteers build priceless memories alongside the kids and their families.
This organization provides therapeutic horseback riding to adults and children with learning and developmental disabilities, and there are many opportunities for students to get involved with the mission. While Freedom Ride volunteers don’t need to have horse experience, it is necessary for them to feel comfortable around the horses. Volunteers are needed to participate as a horse handler or side walker during classes, to provide horse care and grounds maintenance, and to work in the office or during special events.
iCan! Bike Camp
Through a joint effort between the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida and iCan Shine, students can help individuals with Down syndrome and other unique abilities build self-esteem and self-confidence by teaching them how to ride a bike. One of the most important roles is the spotter, or someone who will be tasked with encouraging and guiding one rider during the week. Volunteers may also work as an admin assistant or volunteer coordinator if he or she is looking for a role that doesn’t require physical endurance. This volunteer opportunity will take place between July 30 and Aug. 4 at the Orange County Convention Center.
Oakland Nature Preserve
Summer always comes with the expectation of being out in the sun – relaxing by a pool, playing baseball or kayaking in Central Florida’s beautiful waterways. Various projects at Oakland Nature Preserve, such as habitat restoration, trail maintenance, removal of invasive plant species, and upkeep of the Pioneer Garden allow students to have fun in the sun while leaving their own volunteer legacy.
Orange County Animal Services
Students will learn and practice safe animal handling at the Orange County Animal Services, and, at the same time, they will have the opportunity to help dogs and cats find their forever homes. Volunteers are needed to greet visitors in the lobby, to assist with adoptions, to bathe and groom shelter pets and more. Individuals with outstanding customer service skills who love animals are the perfect fit. A commitment of a set number of hours each month is requested, with a minimum of six hours a month for at least three months for student volunteers.
Ronald McDonald House of Central Florida
Students can participate in two-hour community service shifts between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day of the week. From welcoming families when they arrive at the house to assisting with light administrative work, housekeeping and serving meals, the rewarding work that comes from volunteering at a local Ronald McDonald House will stick with students for a lifetime.
U.S. Dream Academy
Through the U.S. Dream Academy’s volunteer program, high school students can give kids an outlet for their energy by volunteering as a sports coach or help kids express their creativity through art. The Dream Kids program gives students the opportunities to teach elementary and middle school children, showing them how to make summer treats and thrifty art projects.
The key to successfully meeting community service requirements is for students to choose an organization that allows them to do something they love. Becoming a committed volunteer will connect them to a special community with similar interests. Whether they meet someone who can help them on their future career path or touch the lives of others in a special way, volunteering is more than a school requirement – it comes with many rewards.