Volunteer opportunities for Long Island high schoolers
High school juniors and seniors who are members of their school's National Honor Society -- which inducts students who have high grade-point averages and exhibit leadership and social action -- must complete a designated number of independent community service hours outside of school.
Traditional activities include tutoring younger kids or volunteering at a soup kitchen. But what if those opportunities don't inspire your student?
Here are "outside the box" ways to help others:
THROW A BIRTHDAY BASH
Lexie Orbuch, a 17-year-old senior at Jericho High School, volunteers at birthday parties for children with cancer at the John Theissen Children's Foundation in Wantagh. At the "fun center," kids play video games on high-definition TVs, get creative in an arts and crafts room, and glam it up in a nail salon. Volunteers staff activities and serve pizza to up to 24 children. "A lot of times, when people talk about how grateful they are for what they have, they're usually talking about material things," Orbuch says. "This made me grateful for how healthy I am." To volunteer, call 516-679-8697.
Similar opportunities: Cook brunch or dinner at the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park, a temporary home for families of hospitalized children. For information, call Betti McClellan, volunteer coordinator, at 516-775-5683, ext. 131.
TAKE A WALK
At William-Floyd High School in Mastic, National Honor Society co-president Emily La Spisa, 17, is helping put together a team for Long Island's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 6 at Dowling College's Brookhaven campus. "We thought we would start off with a bang with the breast cancer walk," she says. "I'm really excited."
Similar opportunities: Walks for causes happen nearly every fall weekend. In the spring, many school districts participate in Relay for Life events to raise funds to fight cancer. For information, go to relayforlife.org.
SHARE A PASSION
Evan Birns, 16, plays on his Jericho High School basketball team; Sara Salmonson, 16, is on the dance team. Both volunteer as "coaches" with Jammin Jayhawks, which offers sports for kids with special needs. "It is something hands-on," Salmonson says. "I personally get to see the kids I'm helping, rather than raising money to help them." Says Birns: "I feel so good about it afterward."
Similar opportunities: Art enthusiasts can help Splashes of Hope, which paints murals in places such as hospitals, call 631-424-8230; soccer fans can try L.I. Junior Soccer League's Special Children's Program. Check bit.ly/15SbNqr; baseball players might like The Challenger baseball league. Visit bit.ly/15pRVsc.
WORK AT A MUSEUM
Does playing with bubbles, blocks and kids sound like fun? Assistant educators at the Long Island Children's Museum help in the exhibits and galleries, including the Bubble Gallery and the Keva building area. They also teach about the animals in the "Feasts for Beasts" exhibit. "It's all about interacting with the children," says volunteer manager Julia Pirozzi. To volunteer, call 516-224-5853.
Similar opportunities: The Children's Museum of the East End. Call Vanessa Geppert at 631-537-8250, ext. 207. A special project this year is designing a miniature golf course to teach physics and math scheduled to open at the museum next summer.
APPLY FOR A GRANT
Some members of the Westhampton Beach National Honor Society chapter came up with their own project -- making Easter baskets for 50 children in local homeless shelters -- and applied for a $500 Weill Student Social Action Grant through Long Island's Ethical Humanist Society to buy the candy, toys and gift cards to tuck in the baskets. Member Kasey Chockalingam, 17, says it was "heart-wrenching" to learn about the homeless kids. For information on applying for a Weill Grant, call 516-741-7304.
Similar opportunities: Check with houses of worship and other organizations to see if they offer grants.
LOOK IN YOUR BACKYARD
"People don't realize what's right there in their backyard," says Eileen Shultis, adviser to Freeport High School's National Honor Society. "They could be walking by an opportunity every day, a neighbor who needs help." It could be a senior citizen who needs a lawn mowed. "The socializing for that senior citizen is beneficial, and it gives them faith in the youth of America," Shultis says. Last year, her Honor Society members helped Freeport residents affected by superstorm Sandy.