When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to work with kids with disabilities, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. So I volunteered with Variety Adventure Camp for a few years before I turned 16.
After I turned 16, I began working there as a camp counselor, and I loved it. Not only was working at Variety Camp fun, it helped me learn valuable skills that I used in college and still use today. My positive experience with my summer job in high school helped me decide on my major in college, eventually helping me find my way to Starkloff. It gave me the skills and experiences I needed to be confident in my job!
For us (that is people with disabilities), it is important to get a jump start on our college and career plans when we can. Summer is a great time to do this! You can begin to build your resume, no matter your age. If you are under 16 and can’t work, you can take advantage of volunteer opportunities in the summer. If you are over 16 and are ready to kick off your career, you can get a part-time job working at an organization that is interesting to you.
Not everyone finds a good fit right away so it is important to explore and to try new things. So get going! We have compiled a list of organizations that take summer volunteers. Maybe you’ll find an organization you love that will help you meet all of your career goals.
For the Animal Lover:
- Animal Protective Associate (APA)—Ages 16 and up can volunteer at the adoption center, and youths under the age of 16 can support them by collecting towels, newspapers or dog toys.
- TREE House—Ages 14 and up can help with barn cleaning, camps and programs that provide equine-assisted therapy. You don’t need to have any experience with horses.
- St. Louis Zoo—Join the Zoo Teens to spend your summer volunteering at St. Louis’ home to more than 16,000 animals from 600 different species (minimum age 15).
- World Bird Sanctuary—Students who are at least 13-years old can gain experience in animal management while learning about conservation and animal care.
- Butterfly House—Get hands-on experience in nature conservation while gaining plant and animal knowledge with the MANTIS (Making Advocates of Nature-Loving Teens In Service) Program, for students ages 14-18.
- Open Door Animal Shelter—Volunteer to support cats and dogs as they wait to be adopted. For ages 13 and older (volunteers under 16 must have adult supervision).
For the Creative:
- Craft Alliance—Teens between the ages of 15-18 can volunteer to work one or more weeks at the children’s summer arts camp.
- Camp Create—Artscope’s summer camp needs junior counselors to lead a small group of youth through camp activities. Camp counselors need to be in 9th-12th grade.
- St. Louis Art Museum—Volunteers can assist at the museum shop or as a greeter.
- Magic House—Ages 13 and up can apply to become a Museum Assistant and work with a variety of exhibits.
- Libraries—Both the City and County library systems offer opportunities for volunteering. St. Louis County Library accepts teen volunteers ages 12 and up.
For the Outdoorsy One:
- Community Gardens—There are hundreds of community gardens all throughout the St. Louis metro area that could use your help. Some include Gateway Greening (downtown) and the 13th Street Community Garden (Old North). Google “community garden” to see if there’s one in your community.
- Missouri Department of Conservation—Share your love of the natural world by volunteering at a conservation nature center or interpretive site.
- EarthDance Farm—Ages 14 and up are able to volunteer for individual fieldwork opportunities. Additionally, high school students can volunteer on the farm on the first Saturday of every month.
- Team Activities for Special Kids—TASK camp is an action-packed day camp with lots of fun in the sun. As a mentor, you’ll support your buddy through the day’s activities and spend your morning at the Riverchase outdoor water park. For high-school volunteers.
For the Social Butterfly
- Senior centers—Many senior citizen centers, such as Lutheran Senior Services, accept volunteers to lead activities like arts or music. Age requirements vary by location.
- Race day volunteer—Throughout the summer, there are charity runs such as the Heart to Heart 5K/10K in Creve Coeur. Students of all ages can volunteer to pass out race numbers or refreshments.
- STL Science Center—9th-12th graders can join the Junior Internship program to volunteer alongside Science Center staff in an educational and fun setting.
- YMCA—Volunteer opportunities are different at each YMCA location, but include tutoring, youth sports coaching, attending to the community gardens and front-desk greeting.
- Gateway 180—Operates an emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness, and distributes brown-bag meals to low-income community members.
You can also use your time to help an organization that supports a different cause you care about. Planning and running a fundraiser or a donation drive not only helps the organization, but demonstrates your organizational and leadership skills.