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Promoting Youth's Participation in Volunteer Roles Helps Develop Career Skills

Its been my own experience that the work that I perform with community service and other forms of charitable organizations have helped me develop skills throughout my career, especially in the beginning (junior high school through college.) Giving back to the community was something that was instilled in me as a young boy, but the reality is that the effort of volunteering brings so much to the volunteer. Leadership, problem solving, team work, etc., all of these things are developed when working as a group to help contribute to a worthy cause.

Photo of Kevin Chinoy
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Early on in junior highschool through college, I worked with formal charitable organizations (e.g., Key Club, Habitat for Humanity) that had specific service goals. They had very specific roles for people, and as I spent more time in those types of organizations, I developed the skills that enabled me to take my first leadership positions. 

Later on, after college, I worked as a consultant. I worked on service oriented projects during that time, especially mentoring initatives matching consultants with school "buddies." Eventually I ran the program for my consulting firm, and later served on a board for the county.

After completing business school, I created a non-profit the intent of which was to help foster new non-profits (a catalyst of sorts.) This project led me to create a fundraising event, a theater benefit event that was planned for a lower Manhattan theater on Sept 24th, 2001. Needless to say, the events of 9/11 impacted the event. We went forward with the benefit, and ultimately was one of the first benefits to occur right after 9/11. The event was a success, has continued to this day and we raise 20 times the amount of money annually now that we did then. But most importantly, the skills, relationships, and reputation that I developed from that event have completely altered my life, leading to a whole range of projects that have led me into the current career I know have.

Volunteerism is really the basis for the success I have had in my career. And I think can be the basis for a great deal of development for youth. 

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Photo of Tim Huang

Thanks for your post Kevin. I like the underlying idea here, and I do agree: volunteerism can be a powerful catalyst for career development. To play a little bit of devil's advocate though, based on many conversations I've had with friends who are first-generation, low-income college students, I've seen that some young people from low-SES backgrounds may find it difficult to take on the initial risk of volunteering without pay when they've already incurred a significant debt from their student loans during college. How might we consider their needs in this context so that young people regardless of their backgrounds can participate in and enjoy the benefits of public service?

Photo of Kevin Chinoy

To fully address the problem cited here, "building better employment opportunities and pathways for young people around the world," it would seem to me there really has to be a multi-pronged approach that addresses a number of issues that lead to this situation. We have many categories of people impacted by this situation:
- youth already graduated from school currently unemployed or underemployed;
- youth currently in college and high school or other varied forms of education;
- youth not yet at that educational level

I agree that volunteerism without pay doesnt help those already out of school and unemployed deal with their immediate issue. It could help those who are underemployed build skills and their resumes to improve their employment. It could help those early in the education system or not yet in the education system build skills and resumes?

If the focus is on those in immediate need, who are out of school and currently unemployed, then maybe its important to state specifically the goal of this effort is to focus on that specifically? Not on avoiding this issue for those coming up the education pipeline, but instead to say we focus specifically on those already in need?

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