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Working for a Good Cause

Today’s teens are looking beyond fast food and retail to find worthy part-time jobs. Many teens and preteens have a hard time defining their interests outside the animated, technological bubble in which they live. To them, the phrase “socially conscious” means they have more MySpace friends than everyone else. But there are ways to accommodate your child’s personal interests while helping him find an employer that will use his skills, hone his talents, motivate him to become philanthropists — and make him more attractive to colleges.


Fay Mauro, executive director of Volunteer Anne Arundel (www.volunteerannearundel.org), says that extracurricular volunteer work is more impressive than ever to colleges and universities. Because so many schools now require service learning hours, the voluntary volunteer work stands out.

“Colleges are looking for true, long-term commitment to solving community problems through volunteering.Just dropping in on a few projects now and then is not enough,” she explains. Maroulla Plangetis, a recent graduate of Annapolis High School who will be attending the University of Maryland at College Park in the fall, agrees. Throughout high school, Plangetis was membership chair for Raising 4 Reasons, a student-led charitable initiative in Anne Arundel County, and led the school’s community service group, the Interact Club.

Although she pursues the volunteer work for personal reasons, she believes it may have helped her get into college.

“I was accepted at the University of Virginia, and sometimes I think that volunteering could have been the deciding factor at that particular school.” If students are having a hard time putting a finger on their interests, there are professionals who can help sort things out. Arthur Brown is one of those people. Brown works with Vocational Consultants, a career counseling firm in Annapolis.

Through a combination of interviews, vocational testing, situational assessment, records reviews and resource surveys, he guides people toward (or away from) specific jobs, training and courses of study. He also encourages people — especially young students — to volunteer or get jobs related to their interests to get a feel for career choices.

“The first goal is to have the young adults engage in an activity they like. If they are old enough to work, they should apply for jobs in the area they enjoy. The exposure to different vocational situations gives the young adult knowledge to make informed choices towards their future profession later in life,” he explains.

Some parents may find it difficult to get their children to dedicate time to something they aren’t paid for, but Annapolis parent Jadwiga Balzano found ways to motivate her children. The first way, says Balzano, was to volunteer alongside them. Balzano and her two sons, Phillip, 19, and Max, 17, volunteer together at Caring Collection in Annapolis.

“Initially, I really didn’t give my kids much of a choice. I admit that I did throw in breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to sweeten the deal. In volunteering, the boys have met many people of all different kinds of backgrounds. And I think that they have discovered that, in the end, people are all pretty much the same,” Balzano says.

Balzano’s sons have since taken interest in other volunteering opportunities, as well. Phillip loves building model airplanes, so he decided to begin volunteering at the US Naval Academy Museum restoring and building display models.

“People will differ in their opinions as to whether a paying job is a better teaching tool than volunteering. Necessity aside, I think that since they will spend a substantial part of their lives working to support themselves and their families, they should dedicate some time during this part of their lives to volunteering. The world has become so complicated, or so it seems, and kids need to learn to balance out their lives. I believe that volunteering is a big part of achieving that balance,” she says.

By Kayleith Kulp, a freelance writer for Chesapeake Family magazine.

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Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Bowie, Calvert and Prince George’s counties and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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