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Cruel Summer?

Summer is here - with a vengeance! How teens struggling with a tough job market can add volunteering into the mix for a positive and productive summer.

In case you haven’t noticed the sweltering inferno out there, summer is officially here. This week also signals the official start of vacation season as most schools in the area have wrapped up for the year. Hundreds of teens throughout the region are now heading for the pool, the beach, camp and hopefully, their summer jobs. A few weeks ago we wrote about the tough market for recent college grads but unfortunately the reality for teens isn’t too pretty either.

Nonprofit, albeit not explicitly nonpartisan, research group The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) hosts an interesting website that calculates employment data for teens by state. Here in Connecticut, the EPI puts the state’s current teen unemployment at around 21 percent. According to the EPI, their numbers come from analysis of the Current Population Survery done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from June 2011 to May 2012. As of May 2012, overall unemployment in Connecticut stands at 7.8 percent according to the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Last week we were thrilled to be asked to participate in a youth job fair at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport. During the afternoon, organizers told us they had more than 500 youth come through the doors looking for employment opportunities from the dozens of local employers at the event. We were at the fair to help encourage teens to look for employed work of course, but also to consider volunteering as a way to help their communities, stay active and even broaden those resumes a bit.

Overall, we were completely blown away by the teens stopping by our table. At first some were a bit confused about a volunteering group at an employment fair but almost all of the kids we spoke with explained that they were either currently volunteering or had been during the school year. Most of them also said they were eager to do even more for their communities. Music to our ears!

We started to pick their brains about what interested them and we were pretty darn impressed by what they came up with. One girl we spoke with wanted to volunteer to use her fluency with Russian and Spanish to help local immigrant communities assimilate. Another wanted to form a neighborhood cleanup group with her friends from school after being frustrated with all the litter in her community. And another pair of students heading off to culinary school in the Fall talked with us about being interested in helping kids learn healthy eating habits.

Our site has a number of suitable volunteer opportunities for kids and teens in the area and more are added every week. For instance, right now the Carver Center in Norwalk is looking for help with graphic design. Aging in Place in Darien could use help with its Friendly Visitor program, checking in on senior citizens and sharing some quality time with them. This is just a small taste of what’s out there. Remember, if you don’t see something that fits your skills and interests, check out what our partner agencies are up to in general. You may be able to contact them directly and offer your help in another creative way. Plus, with our free site you can set a custom profile that will email you in real-time when an opportunity is posted by a nonprofit that matches your particular skills and interests. 

Our thanks to Housatonic Community College for organizing the event and including us. Also, hats off to the kids we met; we know you’ll make a difference! Be sure to visit us at www.volunteersquare.com to take a look at what’s happening in your area and how you may be able to get involved. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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