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Putting the ‘service’ in community

There are always loads of articles — and sales — around the back-to-school time of year. They describe how parents and children can both prepare, and they list the supplies students will need.

But how can a community prepare to send its brain trust back to school each fall? Are there things each of us — regardless of whether we have children or not — can do to help elevate our community’s education and thus elevate our community?

Of course, there are.

There are the obvious things we can do: paying attention to school buses and stopping when they stop; driving slowly in school zones; exercising patience during frenzied back-to-school sales.

But as a community, we also can offer opportunities for our school-aged children (elementary through college) to learn valuable lessons through community involvement and volunteerism.

More and more colleges are looking for community involvement from their applicants. Getting involved early and often not only helps to build a resume, both for educational pursuits and for getting employment beyond school, but it makes a huge difference in personal growth.

Think about it: The skills one can learn volunteering translate beautifully into a very useful skillset that includes time management, leadership, work ethic and experience.

Right from the start, children can learn what an impact each person can make.

Whether they help at church, help their teachers after school, help on the clean up committee at the school, plant flowers to help beautify their community, help their parents deliver food to the elderly, go with their parents as they patronize a local businesses or simply visit a neighbor who needs some cheering up, they’re making a difference, and they’ll feel a justifiable pride in themselves.

Also, many people will benefit from their time, and that helps impart yet another important lesson.

As children grow older, actually volunteering with any of the very worthy causes to be found at www.volunteerhr.org can instill not only pride in oneself, but dedication and commitment to goals.

In middle school and high school, when their school schedules and homework become more demanding, fitting volunteer work into those schedules can help teach time management skills they’ll definitely need in college and beyond.

Community involvement teaches empathy, work ethic, networking skills and dedication, all hallmark traits of leadership. Colleges look very favorably on students who have chosen to give their talents, time and energy for the benefit of their community, without expecting anything in return.

Giving students an opportunity to discover their strengths and passions and allowing them to find new interests will also help them as they plan for college and beyond. Experience is definitely the best teacher for a lot of these skills.

Colleges are definitely rewarding students who show that they are well-rounded, community-minded and passionate about helping others.

So, how do we, as a community, help them to achieve this? We can offer volunteer opportunities at our schools, churches, neighborhood civic leagues and businesses. Make sure it’s an even-valued exchange, each gaining from the other’s involvement. And then watch the community improve and the kid’s strengths expand.

Let’s make a commitment as a community to help educate our kids by providing volunteer opportunities to help them grow while improving our community. We can all benefit in this back-to-school season.

Kathy Reagan Young has lived in Western Branch for 17 years. She owns PR Plus, a marketing company specializing in writing services and Facebook page and ad management for small businesses. Email her at prplusllc@gmail.com.