Teenage Volunteer Work – Do Good Adventure
When Russell Lyons graduated from Laurel Springs High School in 2011, completing his studies in just three years, he considered the possibility of a gap year before entering college. Many students take advantage of gap years to travel or work. Russell evaluated numerous programs, but could not find exactly what he was looking for: a year of volunteer work in various places throughout the United States. Like many Laurel Springs students, Russell took ownership of his dream, and created his own gap year program and an associated group called Do Good Adventure, which encourages teenage volunteer work.
“I chose Laurel Springs because of the flexible schedule, and I stayed because it allowed me to focus on both academics and my volunteer work.” Russell, who began his volunteer career at age four in his mother’s local literacy program, has a passion for helping others that never waned.
Russel’s Volunteer History
From September 2011 through March 2012, Russell crisscrossed the United States in search of opportunities to give back to local communities. He stopped along the way to do volunteer work in many different types of organizations. Variety is the key word: Russell served meals in a New York soup kitchen, handed out energy-efficient light bulbs in New Orleans, tutored homeless teenagers in Atlanta, boxed groceries in a Nevada food bank, and cleaned cages in a no-kill animal sanctuary in Utah. He also volunteered at a domestic abuse shelter in St. Louis, a retirement home in Arizona, and a program for foster kids in Los Angeles. “These experiences changed my view of the world.”
Russell’s specific focus is the intersection of volunteering and adolescence, culminating in teenage volunteer work. “Teenagers are four times more likely to volunteer if they are asked to do so, and are much more likely to continue work as a volunteer when they are adults.” His organization, Do Good Adventure, has two primary goals: first, to encourage teenagers to become involved in volunteer work, and second, to encourage nonprofit organizations to make teenage volunteer work easier for individuals. “Many times nonprofits have the same rules for a 17-year-old volunteer that they have for a 9-year-old volunteer, such as having a parent accompany the child for the entire duration of the volunteer hours. I want to help these organizations make it easier for teenagers to volunteer.”
Making an Impact
Already, Do Good Adventure is making an impact. Russell describes a conversation in which he related his experiences to a friend’s 13-year-old son, and as a result, inspired the young man to become a volunteer. Russell is also acting as a consultant to various nonprofit groups who have asked him “to revamp their roles for teens.” Russell’s work has earned him awards, as well as a guest blog post on the White House Winning the Future blog.
College is next on the agenda for Russell. He recalls that last fall, he worked on his college applications during the day, and helped homeless high school students with their homework at night. While he plans to major in a science-related field in college, Russell says, “I will always volunteer.”