07/02/2013 04:45 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2013

Doing Something for Nothing

Finally, summer is here! How do you plan on spending your summer? Did you know that more than 50 percent of all Americans ages 14 through 24 have participated in some form of volunteer activity? Every day, youth volunteers donate valuable assistance to churches and other religious organizations, hospitals, nursing homes, recreational groups, community action groups, the elderly, and other individuals and organizations. They're not interested in personal advancement but larger social issues. If you're not participating, why not start today?

Not only will you feel good, there are many other benefits to volunteering like:

1. Volunteer work provides useful job experience, an inside look at interesting careers, and opportunities to build specific skills and knowledge.

2. It helps you build self-confidence.

3. You meet people you might never encounter otherwise.

4. Experience can provide an edge in competitive situations. Serving as a volunteer may tip the scales in your favor when applying for admission to a selective college or competing for a scholarship.

5. Many employers look favorably on applicants with a strong volunteer record. They know such experience is a valuable preparation for the workplace.

If you do a good job as a volunteer, you will also place yourself in a strong position to obtain recommendations from supervisors when you need them later.

"I am where I am because I volunteered," says a former student from our program. "It gave me a chance to explore some possibilities, and my activities helped me select a career. The work also taught me how to deal with the public, and provided some great leadership training."

There are lots of places you can go to check out volunteer opportunities your local Red Cross or United Way, as well as senior citizens groups and libraries, need help. There are rewarding opportunities with the March of Dimes, Easter Seals, Habitat for Humanity, or the Humane Society. Your local police, fire and rescue squads are always looking for help. Local governments perennially need project workers to improve township facilities or assist with welfare needs.

Finally, be creative when considering ways to serve. What needs in your town or school are not being met? What neighbors could use a house or yard worker or a sitter for emergencies? All around us, all the time, are things that need doing.

Getting involved is easy. No matter where you live, volunteer opportunities abound. So enjoy your summer but consider doing something for nothing, you'll be glad you did.