Worthwhile Ways for Teens to Spend Time

Posted on December 9, 2010


Some Springfield students spend a Winter evening at the mall. What else could they be doing?

Erin Agnew / Commentary

With the holidays quickly approaching, the average high school student starts to make a wish list, drop overwhelming hints to parents and grandparents, or otherwise inform others of their desire own the newest, latest, gadget this season. This begs the question “why all the fuss?” Why do we want the iPod four hundred when we already have the iPod three hundred ninety-nine?  Why do we lust after the shiny new plastic instrumented video game when we could take real life trumpet lessons for the same price? The most plausible answer is really quite simple – we think these things will make us happy. We think that receiving presents will make us feel loved and that owning these sought after goods will make us feel accepted by our peers. But this is a great fallacy. It has been proven time and again that the old adage is true; it is better to give than to receive.

By virtue of our humanity, we are hardwired to be empathetic towards others. Jeremy Rifkin, a researcher and speaker for the Royal Society for the Advancement of the Arts, recently noted that the same neurons on a research subject are in use when watching another open a can as when opening a can themselves. We, as humans, are designed to feel what those around us feel. We are designed to “do for others”.  Practice stands behind this theory. Last year, according to a Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, people who gave money to charity were 43% more likely than non-givers to say they were “very happy” about their lives. The endorphins don’t stop rushing there. Volunteers in the same survey were 42% more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers. This all adds up to one simple conclusion: to feel better about ourselves, we should do nice things for other people. There is no shortage of opportunities for this in our modern world or in our Springfield community.

Hospitals, museums, assisted living homes, schools, food banks, and social service organizations abound around us. While there is no shortage of service organizations, volunteers are scare – especially in a younger age bracket. Believe it or not, teenagers are ideal volunteers for groups like these. We are able bodied and full of stamina. We are unencumbered by a family to raise and a full time job. Furthermore, a young volunteer base makes a service organization  look that much more valuable to the community as a provider of constructive recreation for otherwise stereotypically useless teens. The demand for volunteers is there, and it is up to us to become the supply. Everything is working in our favor so far as those pesky service hours for college applications and NHS are concerned. Should we choose to rise to the occasion and become today’s volunteers, game changers, and philanthropists, we will find the benefits we reap are so much more than equal to the time we give.

Below is a list of local organizations which encourage student involvement as volunteers, as well as their contact information for interested students:

●      Teenshop, Inc. (empowerment for underserved teens)  Phone Contact: 215-851-1842

●      BuildaBridge (healing through the arts)  info@buildabridge.org

●      Abington Hospital (multi department healthcare services)  amh-volunteer@amh.org

●      Graeme Park (historic museum house)  ra-graemepark@state.pa.us

●      Harston Hall (nursing and rehabilitation care) 215-233-0700

●      Carson Valley Children’s Aid (child welfare and education agency)  215-233-1960

●      Philabundance (food bank for shelters or individuals) jbarnett@philabundance.org

●      Hope Lodge (historic museum house)  215-646-1595

●      The Attic (support and care for LGBTQ students)  info@atticyouthcenter.org

●      Goodwill (employment and aid for those below the poverty line) 215-638-1540

●      Penn Medicine (Summer Student Ambassadors Program)  215-829-5187

●      W.S. Hancock society ( historical interpretation and research) wshancocksoc@msn.com


Posted in: Commentary