As we saw during the recent midterm elections, young people are becoming more and more involved in their communities as engaged citizens who head to the polls in greater numbers. I applaud those parents who teach their children early on about the importance of caring about their communities, whether through voting or volunteering.
I have friends on social media who went over the ballot with their children or brought them to the polls to see firsthand what it means to cast a vote. Many of the young people I work with volunteer at food pantries and raise money for a good cause. It really warms my heart and gives me hope for the future. I also enjoy seeing my friends pass down their commitment to social justice to their young ones.
Child Trends, a nonpartisan, national research center focused on children, released a study on Nov. 3 about young people’s volunteerism trends. It reported:
More than one-third of 12th-graders (36 percent) reported they volunteered at least once a month in 2016; around 33 percent of 10th-graders and 27 percent of eighth-graders reported the same.
While rates of volunteering increased from 1991 to 2016 for both 10th-graders (from 27 to 33 percent) and 12th-graders (from 24 to 36 percent), the rate for eighth-graders remained relatively constant.
Female students are more likely to volunteer than male students, especially in the higher grades. In 2016, 42 percent of female 12th-graders said they volunteered at least once per month, compared with 32 percent of male 12th-graders.
In 2016, students planning to complete four years of college were more likely to volunteer than their peers without such plans, at 41 and 24 percent, respectively, among 12th-graders.
Two local examples of young people volunteering in their community are Wilbur Wright Middle School seventh-graders Addison Dzurovcik and Dorothy Lakshmanamurthy, who learned early on through their Girl Scout troop about the importance of helping others.
This year they decided to create a “birthday in a bag” with all the fixings for a fun birthday celebration — items like cake mix, frosting, paper plates, birthday cards and party favors. They then give the bags to the Love Inc. Food Pantry at Munster Church so the pantry’s clients can celebrate birthdays, despite not having the resources.
“I think it’s really cool that Dorothy and I can put a smile on somebody’s face and make someone happy,” said Addison, 12. “They can celebrate and bring their family together all with one bag.”
“It makes me feel really proud because I know I’m making an impact on somebody else’s life,” said Dorothy, 12. “People are usually very happy and thank us. I like when they tell their story. It makes me get to know them and what they are going through and how we can help them.”
These 12-year-olds aren’t alone. There are 1.8 million Girl Scouts nationwide and 52,000 young people in the Girls Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.
Addison and Dorothy and their Troop 10271 helped one of their own several years ago.
Troop leader Diane Strange-Hoogeveen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. The troop wanted to help Diane and her daughter, a friend and fellow troop member.
The then-fifth-graders learned how to make “tie blankets” and each girl in the troop made two during their troop meetings. The whole troop then delivered 50 blankets to cancer patients at the Cancer Resource Centre in Munster, a support program of the Community Cancer Research Foundation so the patients could stay warm during their chemo treatments.
“It was wonderful and touching,” Diane said. “(My daughter) loved it. It was one of those things where you’re 10 years old and your mom has cancer and no hair. It was hard for her to understand it. Knowing she could help others was good for her.”
I’m always a huge supporter of social media and all the good it does in bringing friends, loved ones and even strangers together in positive ways. But lately with so many people angry about the turmoil in the world, it has also become an outlet for people to passively fight one another. But on Election Day, I enjoyed seeing so many people passionate about their country, sharing about the importance of voting with their children.
I leave you with this one story that went viral on Twitter on Election Day from McKay Coppins, a journalist for The Atlantic:
“My wife and I got back from voting and found our 5 yo in tears that she didn't get to come. So I took her to the polling place and gave her a little patriotic talk about America and democracy.
“On the way back she told me she thought mom had said we went ‘boating.’”
Well, all the best parents can do is try — and try they must!