We’re challenging our teen readers to make this summer a season of giving back--and we need your help to make it happen! After going over our May article, The Summer of Change, in class, use the list below to give students ideas of how they can get involved in their communities. Encourage them to be open to new opportunities that may come their way, and remind them that there’s no such thing as too little time to volunteer—even if they only have 15 minutes to spare, they can still make a difference!


1. Donate clothes.

Once teens have a stack of clothes they no longer want (but that are still in decent condition), they can either bring it to a Goodwill or Salvation Army drop-off center, or arrange for an item pickup from a charity like the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Time commitment: 30 minutes to sort through clothes + travel time to a drop-off center

Cost: $0


2. Throw a care package party.

Teens can help out the homeless by making care packages with friends. They’ll start by individually collecting small hygiene items, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap bars, and socks. Then, the group gets together and assembles their packages in small boxes or plastic bags that will be donated to a nearby homeless shelter. (Hey teachers, this could also be a great end-of-the-year advocacy activity!)

Time commitment: Two to three hours

Cost: $20 for supplies, divided among participating teens


3. Volunteer at the local animal shelter.

For the animal-loving teen, this is the perfect way to give back. Most shelters are constantly looking for volunteers--and cuddling with cute critters hardly feels like work!

Time commitment: About an hour a week

Cost: $0

4. Write a letter to a member of Congress.

Is there a policy issue that one of your students is passionate about? Encourage them to write a letter or email to their representatives. The letter doesn’t have to be their magnum opus--it can just be a simple statement of something they don’t believe is being handled well, or something they want a lawmaker to know they support. Direct teens here to find out how to contact their representatives.

Time commitment: 15 to 30 minutes

Cost: $0

5. Teach technology to adults.

Older adults who aren’t familiar with email or social media may feel lonely and isolated from their loved ones, so teaching them how to use this technology helps them connect with others. Teens can get started by contacting a local library or community center and volunteering to teach older adults how to use a smartphone or open a Facebook account.

Time commitment: Two to three hours

Cost: $0

6. Encourage literacy.

Teens can go to their local library and read to kids, or simply collect books to donate to the library. Organizations like Reach Out and Read can help would-be volunteers find a place to reach out to. (Note: There are sometimes age and background-check requirements to be a reader through the site.)

Time commitment: Varies

Cost: $0


7. Become a mentor.

Young kids look up to teens, so your students can make a big difference by befriending elementary-aged children, and offering guidance and support. One way to do this: Teens can start a weekly workshop to teach a skill they know to younger kids. 

Time commitment: A few hours a week

Cost: $0

8. Learn a new skill.

There are many free courses on sites like Instructables and YouTube that’ll help teens develop a new talent. Then, they can put that skill to good use! One example: Teens who learn to knit or crochet can make hats or scarves for the homeless.

Time commitment: A few hours a week

Cost: Around $10 for craft supplies


9. Become a tutor.

Teens can volunteer to work at an elementary school and tutor summer school students in subjects they may be struggling with, like math or reading.  

Time commitment: A few hours a week

Cost: $0


10. Campaign for safe driving.

Teens can sign up for the Do Something campaign, Crash Text Dummy, to get tips on preventing friends from texting and driving. They’ll even be entered to win a $5,000 scholarship! Be sure to also direct them to our story, Danger Behind the Wheel, where they can take the Power Passenger Pledge. 

Time commitment: A few minutes

Cost: $0


11. Share on social media.

Social media savvy teens can create a special account to promote a cause they feel passionately about. Another idea? Teens can also reach out to a local organization or non-profit and see if they need help managing their social media accounts.

Time commitment: 15 to 30 minutes

Cost: $0

12. Be a healthy-eating advocate.

Nutrition is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for growing teens, so have them download resources from The HAPPY Org to practice cooking healthy meals. After, they can teach family members and friends! For more healthy recipes, be sure to check out our story, What’s for Dinner?

Time commitment: A few hours for shopping and cooking

Cost: Groceries 


13. Save the bees.

Bees are an important part of our environment, and they are mysteriously disappearing. Teens who want to help create a bee haven can try out the DoSomething campaign, Bumble Bands, by planting strips of paper with bee-friendly seeds glued to them.

Time commitment: One hour or less

Cost: $1-$2 for seeds


14. Conserve water.

When we think of summertime, we often think of cool, refreshing water--but summer heat often causes water shortages and droughts. Teens who want to help the environment can try Do Something’s Shower Songs campaign to encourage five-minute showers to conserve water.

Time commitment: Ten minutes

Cost: $0


15. Host a school supply drive.

As fall approaches, some students can’t afford the back-to-school supplies they desperately need. To help them, teens can set up a school supply drive or collect items from friends and neighbors, and then donate those items to their school or a local charity. 

Time commitment: A few hours

Cost: $0


Be sure to have students read The Summer of Change in this month’s issue of Choices