Creative Commons
Creative Commons

By ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Managing Editor

For some, this is a fabulous time of year. The weather is getting warmer, the semester is almost over, and perhaps you just found out that you landed that awesome paid internship you were hoping for.

For others, this is the worst time of the year. You’ve been denied or deferred from every internship or job you’ve applied for, final projects and exams are piling up, and the stress of what you are going to do over the summer continually looms overhead.

In lieu of another summer spent laying on a towel in your backyard, or driving around aimlessly waiting for friends to get off of work, I would like to offer a recommendation of how to spend one’s time: volunteer.

I am not referring to helping out at the local soup kitchen once a year, or spending a Saturday cleaning up a park. While these events are both great, and they do help people, they are not long-term. They usually don’t allow one to fully use one’s skills, to learn about a community organization, or to really make a difference in one’s local area.

If it turns out that you are finishing the semester with no promising prospects, look around your city for a non-profit that correlates with activities you are interested in. Perhaps you want to go into education, or want to learn about growing your own food, or are extremely concerned with environmental issues, or think all vacant homes need to be properly boarded up. Perhaps you love the Heidelberg Project, or want to work on your public speaking and presentation skills. For any interest, there is a tutoring program, community center, urban farm, river clean-up team, or neighborhood association out there that could use a helping hand.

Think of volunteering as an unpaid internship. Show your passion, ask for responsibility, and make the most of an opportunity to help others while developing essential leadership skills. A long-term commitment will expand your network in a field you are interested in, and, if relevant, looks great on a resume. Not to mention the amount of people you could be helping, of course.

So make the most of your free time this summer. Pay it forward, build up some good karma. I guarantee your community will get as much out of it as you will.