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United Way Blog

Young People + Volunteering = Bright Future

As of October 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 7.9% unemployment rate in the United States.  The figure is much higher, however, for young men and women.  Over 13% of young people ages 20-24 are unemployed in the U.S.  A person is considered unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. People who are waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been temporarily laid off are also included as unemployed.

It is a bleak situation, especially for those young adults, many of whom are saddled with huge college tuition debt.  I am optimistic, though, about young adults who are spending their early 20’s volunteering through Teach for America, VISTA, City Year, and other service organizations like them.  And I am proud of United Way’s role in helping idealistic young people find a w

For example, Heart of Florida United Way is a key supporter of City Year Orlando.  This successful national peer mentoring program is an initiative of the federal AmeriCorps program. It brings young leaders – called corps members -- together for a year of full-time service focused on improving achievement at under-performing schools.  Orlando’s inaugural corps of 49 young people is serving in five of the highest need schools in the city.ay to serve, improve their skills and in some cases, earn money for college or graduate school.  We all win through national service programs like these and through United Way’s own initiatives as well.

At 24 sites across the U.S., 2,500 City Year corps members are partnering with schools to improve students' attendance, behavior, and course performance, which research shows are highly predictive of whether students will graduate. Together, they are helping to keep students in school and on track.  In Orlando, the success of last year’s pilot City Year team at Oak Ridge High School achieved exciting gains: the number of students with perfect attendance more than doubled in just one month. 

For volunteers still in school, Student United Way is a campus based student led organization that works in partnership with the local United Way. Currently, Student United Ways exist on nearly 80 campuses across the United States including: technical & trade schools, junior and community colleges, colleges and universities, as well as several high schools.

So while unemployment numbers are troubling, young people who volunteer can build a bright future for themselves and others, especially when they help kids stay in school through tutoring or mentoring initiatives.  Decreasing the number of high school dropout is a major priority for United Way.  You can enlist in a program like City Year or Student United Way to make a difference in your community and the future of our country.  You can also pledge to become a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor, and make a difference today.