Finding ways to bridge divides is essential in today’s world. One of the most potent tools for fostering understanding is civic engagement, particularly when it begins in the formative years of youth. Not only does volunteering mold responsible, aware citizens, but it also creates a culture of empathy and collaboration.
As Family Volunteer Day approaches, here are some things you should know about youth civic engagement, plus some resources to make it easy for you to get involved.
The Importance of Early Civic Engagement
When young people engage in their communities, they develop critical skills such as leadership, empathy and teamwork. They also gain an understanding of the challenges and diversities in their communities, learning to appreciate and work with people from different backgrounds and perspectives. This exposure is crucial for youth development, equipping them with tools they will use throughout their lives.
According to CIRCLE from Tufts University, the national rate of youth volunteerism stands at 30.3%. This statistic is both heartening and a call to action. It shows that a significant portion of our youth are already involved in supporting their communities. It also highlights the need to encourage more young people to take part in civic activities to build a better, brighter future.
Bridging Divides Through Shared Action
Civic engagement is a powerful vehicle for bridging divides. When people from various backgrounds come together for a common cause, they learn to see beyond their differences. They share experiences, goals and the satisfaction of contributing to something larger than themselves. This shared sense of purpose is essential in building resilient communities.
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory from Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy this year. According to the statement, “The physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.” Clearly, the effects of loneliness are profound and cultivating community – especially among young people – can have a lasting and beneficial impact on mental and physical wellbeing.
Family Volunteer Day: A Starting Point
One of the best ways to introduce youth to civic engagement is through family-oriented volunteer activities. Family Volunteer Day is a day for families to work together in service. It offers an excellent opportunity for families to foster a sense of civic responsibility in children by engaging in meaningful activities and making a difference while strengthening their bond with each other and their neighbors.
Points of Light provides comprehensive toolkits for planning volunteer activities. These resources make it easy for families to find and participate in events on Family Volunteer Day. Whether it’s cleaning up a local park, helping at a food bank or engaging in other community projects, these activities can help lay the groundwork for a lifelong commitment to civic involvement. You can organize a volunteer project with neighbors, at your school, or with community organizers.
Civic Engagement on Family Volunteer Day and Beyond
Civic engagement is a bridge that can connect communities. It starts with youth and grows through shared experiences and commitments to supporting communities around the world. As we approach Family Volunteer Day, you can use this opportunity to involve young people in community service.
By leveraging resources like the Points of Light toolkits, you can plan meaningful activities that foster understanding. To learn more about the impact of volunteering and lending your time and talents responsibly, check out our Civic Life Today issue on Volunteer. To find volunteer opportunities in your area and beyond on an ongoing basis, search the Points of Light Engage platform, a database of hundreds of thousands of volunteer opportunities around the world waiting for individuals to step up.
Encouraging early civic engagement is not just an investment in individual development; it’s an investment in the future of our communities and our world. Together, let’s embrace this opportunity to bridge our divides, one act of service at a time.