When young people help others, they tend to make positive lifestyle choices. Evidence is mounting on the benefits on youth involved in community service, says LSU AgCenter 4-H youth volunteer expert Dr. Janet Fox.
According to research conducted by the Search Institute, youth who are involved in service just one hour or more a week are about half as likely as those who don’t serve to be involved in a variety of negative behavior. Those behaviors include binge drinking, drug use, cigarette use, alcohol use, vandalism and truancy.
"Apart from shielding youth from problem behavior, community service offers tremendous benefits for all involved," Fox said, adding, "Community service enhances personal development skills including self-esteem, communication skills, problem skills and empathy for others. Youth develop leadership skills as they take on responsibility for planning and carrying out community-service projects.
Fox notes that students benefit academically as well. Service projects can make the connection between subject matter taught in school and real-life situations. Community service not only connects to school but also to the labor of work. Through community service, students develop and enhance job skills. Community service opportunities provide youth with a valuable chance to explore career options.
As young people serve others, they realize they are valued. This value often leads to empowerment.
"Students also bring excitement to addressing community needs," Fox said, explaining, "They often have very creative ideas and solutions to solve unmet needs and problems." By becoming involved in community service, youth are seen as fresh resources for society.
For information on youth and family topics, click on the 4-H clover at the AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture