Our goal is to study how and why young people engage in a range of civic acts, including volunteering, belonging to groups, and voting, and what benefits result from engaging in those ways.
We recently received the following questions related to the benefits of volunteering:
a) Do young people who volunteer have higher academic performance?
We know from research by Davila and Mora that there is a positive link between community service (either for a course requirement or a strictly voluntary basis) and academic performance. Their findings indicate that civic activities (both curricular and non-curricular) have positive effects on high school academic progress across racial/ethnic groups. They also find that:
- “Students who participated in school required community service were 22 percentage points more likely to graduate from college than those that did not and were more likely to have improved their Reading, Math, Science, and History scores.”
- “Similarly, students who performed voluntary community service were 19 percentage points more likely to graduate from college than those that did not.”
b) Do young people who volunteer development and gain job/professional skills as a result?
Research has determined what civic skills are – these skills can be applicable to performing well in a profession. Skills such as communication, critical thinking and planning & organizing skills are examples We know that one way young people gain civic skills is from civic education opportunities. Research by Torney-Purta & Wilkenfeld has shown that students do indeed gain civic skills from interactive discussion in civic education curricula.
c) Do young people who volunteer engage in their communities in other ways?
Research by McIntosh & Muñoz suggests that community service among young people was positively related to civic behavior. CIRCLE has looked at this question more in depth this year, and will be coming out with more research in the fall.
These are three very important questions, all of which need additional research specific to non-curricular service/volunteering.