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Internships & Volunteering Build Character

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Internships, volunteering, chores at home…. these things all build character and instill work ethic in our children.

Last year I watched the movie The Internship. In addition to being entertaining, it showed me how different our children’s world is compared to the environment most of us were raised in. When I am around teens in my own house, at sporting events, at school, in social situations, there is one thing that remains constant… their heads are all directed down looking at cell phones. Teens no longer seem to know how to do “real face-time”. They are most comfortable communicating through a device. This movie shows the generation gap as 2 older men (at the ripe old age of 40) attempt to get jobs at Google and compete with those fresh out of college. It illustrates that even with all of the amazing technology available, people still need human contact. It was a reminder of why we need to continue to teach our children communication skills outside their devices. Sadly, I think technology is making kids more anti-social even with the many ways we have to communicate and keep in touch.

I am not concerned about how much my child understands technology because that is a skill that is being reinforced in school and in their social life. I do want to know that my daughters can hold a conversation with an adult, shake hands firmly, make eye contact and answer in complete sentences during an interview.

I have the opportunity each year to do “Mock Interviews” with students in the high school. The goal is to help them create resumes and learn communication skills. The students are always polite and many had high GPA’s along with being honor students. What I notice though is that the students who have had some experience interning or volunteering are much better prepared to hold a conversation regardless of their GPA. They have had real life experience and a bit more confidence. Putting together a resume is such a great task for many of them because they are able to see how many areas of their life they can pull experience from even at the age of fifteen. It might not be paid work experience but some students reference home chores, personal obstacles and then of course volunteer experience as well as some of their more hands-on classes at school.

My daughter’s work as junior counselors at a camp every summer. They started when they were twelve. I saw such a difference in their confidence when I dropped them off this year compared to three years ago. One of my daughters has an opportunity to teach swimming this year as a result of her 5 years of playing water polo. She is now able to see where her commitment to a sport is paying off in other ways.

My kids have no interest in hearing all my advice on how important communication is but when they come home from volunteering, I can see how much they are learning and being influenced. They respond to the compliments and learn from the different styles of bosses. They also learn from watching their peers and seeing those who slack off and let down the team versus those that take the lead.It is hard for students to juggle school, homework and sports but they all do need the “real-life experience” if they are going to know how to direct their focus in college and what it takes to have a job. Internships and volunteering help students learn to think for themselves and give them an opportunity to think outside the box.

November 10, 2014

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