The summer before my freshman year of high school, my mom basically forced me to “recommended” that I volunteer over the summer as a way to appeal to colleges and fill my summer with activities. Because of my love of animals, I decided to volunteer at my local pet adoption center in the pet boarding sector.

What started out as a boring way to spend my Sunday afternoons became an extremely beneficial lesson that has helped me in later years. Through volunteering at the center, I became aware of the value of time and money. I worked upwards of five hours every session and didn’t get paid a cent while doing it.

The work was grueling. I didn’t get to even touch the animals, instead, I washed pet bowls, washed and dried dirty laundry, and cleaned the used cages. But through doing those tasks I realized how excited I was to work in the real world. The people surrounding me were all paid adults who sported blue work uniforms and efficiently did their jobs. They barely gave me a second glance while they completed their own tasks, but I greatly admired and looked up to their work ethics . . . and jealously wished I got the shirts and paychecks that they did.

By being in the working world at a younger age, I got to see first-hand the tasks and daily life of an employee. Because of this experience, I applied to as many jobs as I could as soon as I turned sixteen-years-old, and became a host for a year.

The communication skills I learned through talking to superiors while volunteering made applying and getting a job much easier because I got to practice in a real-life situation without the stress of applying and getting paid.

Not only did I get stress-free work experience, but I also learned essential skills in the adoption center that could benefit me both in my home (washing dishes thoroughly, folding large amounts of laundry) as well as in future jobs.

Volunteering was a very useful way to incorporate community service into my summer activities while making sure that I had additional information for my college application and practical skills that I could apply to real life tasks.

I would definitely recommend putting your children into a volunteering program when they are able to learn, listen, and apply lessons to their future lives.