Some students do it because it may be a graduation requirement at their school. Other students may do it because it makes them feel better about themselves. Whatever the reason, volunteering is an honorable way to spend the winter break this year.
Volunteer opportunities lie in many places for high school and middle school students. Ashley Witkowski, a student at Hurricane High School, prefers going somewhere and actually meeting the people she helps with her volunteering.
"One time I went to a rehab center with my church called Stop the Revolving Door to paint and do yard work for them," Witkowski said. "I think that's my favorite thing I've done."
The project originally started out as a youth group idea, but it wasn't too long before most of the people who attend her church, Redeemer Presbyterian, wanted to get involved.
If students do not attend church, there are many other ways to help people through volunteering. Often, communities have food pantries or soup kitchens that are looking for extra hands to prepare groceries or food for those who are struggling financially. Locally these include Manna Meal and Trinity's Table in Charleston, Christ's Kitchen in St. Albans and the Huntington Area Food Bank. The winter break is a great time to volunteer for such activities as the holiday season is often busier than usual at such places.
On the other hand, volunteering does not have to revolve around people at all. Hurricane student Jessica Saunders enjoys spending her time volunteering at a local animal hospital.
"I do it to see what it is like to be a veterinarian and if I could see myself going into that field," she stated.
Saunders thinking is smart. If students want to volunteer but cannot think of what they want to do, considering what jobs they like enough to pursue as a career in is a great start.
Animal hospitals are not the only place to volunteer, though; many "people hospitals" are looking for volunteers as well. Sometimes students may feel called to one particular aspect of hospital volunteering, such as reading to the kids in the children's ward. Other times, students are open to helping wherever it is needed the most.
Like hospitals, nursing homes may become a lonely place during the long winter months. People can bring some holiday cheer to nursing homes by calling and asking about their volunteer opportunities. Nursing homes often love to have young people volunteer because the residents enjoy seeing a smiling young face from time to time.
Reading to elementary school students, baking cookies for a local homeless or women's shelter or volunteering at a Red Cross blood drive can also bring that selfless holiday spirit that people love to be around to students throughout the winter break. If a student is feeling ambitious, he or she could try to take on more than one of these tasks.
Whether the reason to participate in volunteering activities is to meet certain graduation requirements or simply because it feels good, the winter break is ideal for these types of experiences.