Afterschool programs are a natural fit for volunteers 50+ looking to contribute their time and skills to youth-serving organizations.
Quality afterschool programs are in high demand because they offer so much more than safe child care. They provide educational support, health and wellness opportunities, social and emotional learning and much more. By introducing kids to new ideas, opportunities and people, afterschool programs give youth a chance to learn and grow in a fun, engaged, informal way – and that energy is infectious!
If you’re interested in volunteering your time at an afterschool program, here are some ideas for finding or creating a volunteering opportunity that’s just right for you.
1. Connect to your community.
There are many national afterschool organizations that have offices across the country and they are often looking for volunteers. As you start your search, reach out to your local YMCA or YWCA, the National 4-H Council, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Camp Fire USA, Parks & Recreation Department, Police Athletic League, After-School All Stars, or Girls, Inc. group. If these groups don’t have opportunities for volunteers, they may be able to recommend other programs or even make an introduction.
2. Expand your possibilities.
What kind of volunteer do you want to be? Assisting staff with day-to-day programming and helping to run special events are great ways to care for school-age children after school, but they aren’t the only kinds of volunteer possibilities available. Large afterschool programs, especially those that have a national parent organization, are often looking for volunteers to serve as mentors for older youth or as board members. When you contact your chosen afterschool program, ask about their needs and see if they’re a fit for your goals.
3. Use what you know.
Do you have a child, grandchild or godchild who attends an afterschool program? Does your local library or church run a program? Reach out to a program you’re personally invested in and ask them if you can volunteer your time. Draft a list of your special skills and interests – such as cooking, reading, physical activity, tutoring or event-planning, so you can guide the conversation toward the kind of volunteering opportunity you’d like best. Providing ideas up front and demonstrating investment in the organization’s success are great ways to ensure your offer will be picked up!
4. Educate yourself.
You can find all the details about afterschool programs in your state here. In addition to important data and fact sheets about the presence and impact of afterschool programs, each state page provides contact information for your statewide afterschool network lead. These contacts can help answer questions about volunteering opportunities, connect you with programs close to you, and keep your name and skills in mind for volunteer opportunities that come across their desks.
5. Make it your own.
If you’re not finding afterschool programs near you, consider starting one of your own! It’s a big challenge and substantial investment of time, but becoming an afterschool program provider is rewarding work. The Afterschool Alliance has a suite of resources that can help, from start-up guides to development, management and curriculum-building strategies. You don’t have to go it alone, either – reach out to people in your community, including the members of the national organizations listed above, as well as the local police, mayor, city council members, school principals and teachers, labor organizations, arts organizations and museums, PTAs, libraries, local businesses, and any professional or social organizations to which you belong.
Charlotte Steinecke is the Communications Manager at the Afterschool Alliance, a partner of Encore.org’s Gen2Gen campaign to mobilize 1 million people 50+ to help kids thrive.