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Social Emotional Learning | December 14, 2023

10 Ways Teens Can Make a Difference in Their Communities

The drive to make a difference in the world is a powerful one, but sometimes teens don’t know where to start. This article outlines 10 community activities for youth with examples. Share it with teens, so that they can make a difference in their local communities.

Teens and Community

Did you know that teens are some of the most active participants in service in the United States? Annually, 15 million young people give of their time and talent to help others. They are joined by even more teens around the globe. These numbers can be empowering for teens, who may feel that they can’t make an impact when it comes to injustice or issues on a local or national level.

There are many ways that teens can make a difference in the world. They can make a difference on a small and a large scale. They can collaborate with others or focus on individual endeavors. Starting locally is an easy way for teens to reach out and get involved in service and social action.

Community Activities for Youth

Though there are many more, here are 10 examples of ways teens can make a difference in their local communities. Share this list with the teens in your life to encourage them to create the change they want to see in the world, beginning right in their own backyards.

Plant a community garden.

Do you like getting your hands dirty? Plant a community garden to help feed those who are hungry. In addition to producing food, cooperative gardens beautify communities, help nurture and sustain the environment, and bring people together in support of an important cause.

Volunteer to help community members in need.

There are many ways to help those who are struggling economically. Volunteer at a food bank or shelter or check out opportunities to get involved through your school or faith group. If you’re not sure where or how you can help, visit the DoSomething website for ideas.

Join the effort to provide housing for all.

Are you the type of person who doesn’t mind rolling up your sleeves to get a job done? You might be a perfect candidate to help build homes for others. Talk with neighborhood housing organizations, or visit the websites of Habitat for Humanity and UN-Habitat to find out how you can help.

Help kids on the streets.

An estimated 200,000 young people are experiencing homelessness in the United States. Kids end up on the street for many reasons. Some run away to escape abuse. Others are addicted to drugs or have homeless families. StandUp for Kids is one group confronting the issue, using a range of approaches. Find out how you can help at.


Collect items for those in need.

Organize a drive to gather basic necessities and more. Ask the public for donations of nonperishable food, blankets, clothing (including winter items), toys, and any other supplies that can be distributed to local families. Collaborate with public officials, school staff, and local businesspeople to create drop-off spots around your area.

Help others find work.

Unemployment can often be a cause of homelessness. Volunteer at job training and placement centers in your community. Or, spread the word about these centers and help unhoused people become aware of work opportunities. You might also work to support laws that expand job opportunities in your area.

Spread the word about poverty in your area.

Interview local experts on poverty and share what you learn with others. Raise awareness using flyers, posters, public service announcements, and video sharing. You might also express your views in newspapers (with a letter to the editor), at online news sites, or on a personal blog.

Support laws that help people experiencing homelessness.

To learn about pending laws that affect unhoused people, visit National Alliance to End Homelessness and The National Coalition for the Homeless. Circulate petitions supporting laws that you believe in or contact state representatives and ask for their help to initiate proposals helping people experiencing homelessness.

Combat Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is an issue that affects millions of young people in the United States. Support other teens and members of your community by learning more about hunger and taking action to learn about and promote awareness about food insecurity. Organize a food drive or contribute to a local collection of needed items for the food bank or pantry.

Mentor Young People

Do you have time or a skill or talent you could share with younger members of your community? Check in with your local community center to see if you can volunteer to tutor or read with students who need extra after-school support, or offer to teach a class on a topic of interest to you.

Once teens have decided on one of the ideas in this article or brainstormed their own great service project ideas, writing a proposal will help them communicate the idea to those who can support them in making it happen.

Teens are already actively making a difference in their communities and their world. With these ten suggestions of community activities for youth, they can start to serve their local communities right away in meaningful and impactful ways. For more service ideas (both local and global), check out The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis.

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Free Spirit Team

An imprint of Teacher Created Materials, Free Spirit is the leading publisher of learning tools that support young people's social, emotional, and educational needs. Free Spirit's mission is to help children and teens think for themselves, overcome challenges, and make a difference in the world.

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