My Pre-teen Needs to Volunteer…Now What?

A frequently asked question by parents is, “Why can’t my 13 year-old volunteer with Queens Library?”

The short answer is that New York State law prohibits individuals under the age of 14 from engaging in employment and volunteer-related activities (community service is viewed as a form of work).

However, many middle schools are now requiring students in 6-8th grade to complete community service. So, what can parents do to address this issue?

Community Service can be broadly defined as actions that benefit the public good. In this context, the ability to volunteer your time can take multiple forms that benefit others.

Here are a few suggestions:

Volunteer with your child – Many organizations (including the library) encourage adults to volunteer with their children for one day projects. Look for weekend projects and special events and inquire if you can bring your child to a day of service.

Create community drives – Recruit other parents, neighbors and friends to create a community drive to collect items (canned food, books, blankets, toys, etc.). Donate the collected items to a local pantry, shelter or library.

Write cards to veterans and seniors – Have your child write a series of greeting cards to brighten up the day of a veteran or senior. These cards are especially helpful during the holiday season or can be combined with a community drive and included along with collected items. Contact a local senior center, VFW group or Veterans Affairs office to inquire.

Check with your afterschool program – Some afterschool programs “employ” middle school students that attend sessions as unofficial helpers. Students may be tasked with helping setup activities, working with younger children to complete tasks or assisting with basic office/administrative duties. Be sure to speak with a coordinator to see if your child can lend a hand.