teens working at volunteer summer job

Where Can My Teen Volunteer This Summer?

Summer is here, and if you have a teen without a dull schedule, you may want to consider finding something productive for them to do to fill the time, like working as a volunteer for a cause they believe in, or in an area they’re interested in pursuing later in life. Volunteering is a great way for teens to get out in the world, meet people, build skills, and make a difference. Any teen can volunteer for a wide variety of jobs during the summer months.

Teens with a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety can volunteer, too, of course: in some cases, getting out in the world is a great way to build self-esteem and participate in meaningful work outside of the school setting. If your teen does have a diagnosis for a mental health disorder, we recommend consulting with their treatment team before arranging volunteer work. It depends on the kid, of course, but we think most therapists and counselors would be on board with the idea, within parameters defined beforehand.

To answer the question in the title of this article, your teen can volunteer literally anywhere this summer. We like the idea of looking for opportunities close to home, first. For instance, if you live in a residential neighborhood, you may have elderly neighbors or neighbors with health problems who need support. They may need help getting to the store, cutting the grass, or something simple like loading and unloading their dishwasher.

The best way to find volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood is to simply ask. You can find your neighborhood Facebook or Nextdoor page and ask there. Or your teen can be more direct. They can find neighbors who may need assistance, explain who they are and what they want to do, and ask:

“How Can I Help?”

We know, we know: the world is volatile these days, so we have to add a disclaimer. Your teen should only approach a door during the daytime, they should identify themselves clearly – “I’m your neighbor [Mark] from around the corner on Oak Street, I hope I’m not bothering you” – and they should stand back from the door while waiting for someone to answer.

With that said, let’s take a look at the various other ways in which your teen might volunteer this summer.

Childcare/Young Children

To find volunteer opportunities working with young kids, the best place to start is close to home. Local elementary schools are always looking for volunteers to help in their summer day programs. The same is true for you local churches, youth centers, and recreation centers. If you can’t find anything near you, then use these resources, which identify place your teen can volunteer this summer, all over the country:


Like volunteering in childcare or volunteering for young children, the best place to start is at local schools, libraries, churches, and youth centers. If your teen wants to do volunteer work with older children, they can start at local middle schools rather than elementary schools. Also, the link we include here for the YMCA covers various volunteer options in addition to teaching kids.


At risk of sounding like a broken record, we also advise seeking local opportunities first. Most of the summer programs we mention above – day programs at day care centers, elementary schools, middle schools – have, or would like to have, an arts and music component. Find them and ask: we bet they’ll welcome your teen with open arms. In lieu of that, consider these resources, or search for similar opportunities near you:

Marine Conservation

This one is not as simple as finding a local school or summer program and volunteering your time. While there are opportunities available around the country and around the world, you may need to research these teen volunteer options for summer more closely. Consider these organizations for your teen:

  • Pacific Beach Coalition in Pacifica, CA
  • National Marine Sanctuaries have volunteer opportunities nationwide.
  • Beach Watch organizes volunteer options in California and the West Coast.
  • Citizen Science offers volunteer options that address and seek to solve real-world environmental challenges.
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has a wide variety of ocean/marine conservation volunteer options available .
  • Sea Shephard is a direct-action environmental group dedicated to protecting the oceans of he world. This option is not for teens, but rather young adults looking to take their conservation advocacy to the next level. We reiterate that this is not for teens.


Most animal shelters require volunteers to be at least 16, and most zoos require volunteers to be at least 14. To help your teen find volunteer work this summer with animals or wildlife, have a look at these resources:

  • Paws, a non-profit organization dedicated to animal welfare, maintains a national volunteer page.
  • The Humane Society of the United States  has a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities around they country.
  • The Alameda Animal Shelter has junior volunteer opportunities for people 14-18, and volunteer opportunities for people over 18 in the Bay Area.
  • The Milo Foundation has volunteer opportunities working with cats for people 12 and up, and opportunities for working with dogs for people 16 and up in the Bay Area.
  • San Francisco Animal Care & Control has volunteer options for people 18 and up in the Bay Area.
  • Wildcare, a wildlife hospital, has volunteer options for children, teens, and adults in the Bay Are.

The Environment

The easiest way to find volunteer opportunities that help the environment is by signing up for clean-up days in your local area. Remember the adage Think Global/Act Local. We can start of helping our immediate area, then branch out to consider options like these:


Volunteering in hospitals is a time-honored tradition, as exemplified by the candy-stripers of generations past. Most hospitals require volunteers to be at least 16 years old, and liability issues mean the work people under 18 can do is limited. However, there is still plenty of work for volunteers 16-18. Check out this Hospital Work volunteer guide, then consult these resources:


This is another area where it should be easy as pie to find places your teen can volunteer this summer. If your teen is already on a sports team of any kind, your first set of inquiries should be with the administration of the league their team plays in or their coach. Next, check out any local school or recreation centers that have summer programs. Pro tip: summer baseball is still a big deal in the U.S., and there are youth leagues literally everywhere that would welcome help of all kinds. After you exhaust your local resources, check these:


The best organization for building projects in the U.S. is Habitat for Humanity.  There are virtually endless opportunities to join projects around the country, or close to home. Habit for Humanity has offices in:

After Habitat, it’s also easy to find construction/building opportunities abroad, but these are often programs you need to pay for. To find a pay-to-volunteer program overseas, consult the following resources:


For people who love art, and like things quiet and indoors, volunteering at a museum is a great choice. It’s also a great way to get your foot in the door if you want to work in a museum, according to the people at jobmonkey.com. If your teen is interested in volunteering at a museum this summer, check The American Association for Museum Volunteers first, then check this list of local options:

Making the Most of Summer

For some teens, the summer is about resting and relaxing, and that’s okay. If your teen had a rough year at school and needs downtime to recharge, there’s nothing wrong with giving them that time. On the other hand, if your teen is already driving you up a wall being home this summer, you may want to consider one of the options we list above.

And if nothing on the list above appeals to your teen, it’s possible for you – or them –  to find something themselves. Most cities and towns have something like this:

The City of San Jose: Volunteer Opportunities

That resource allows people interested in volunteering to see what’s available and take the necessary steps to sign up and lend a hand. That’s all it takes. And there’s something we left off our list that may also interest you or your teen: it’s possible to volunteer as a family, which is a wonderful way to bond, create new traditions, and do good work in your community. Places like homeless shelters and food banks always need your help, year-round.