Volunteering Can Set Up Your Child for Success

Does what you do at 10 years old, mean anything to your future. Catarina Hernandez proves that it does. She started volunteering for C.O.U.R.T., which stands for Courteous Outgoing Reliable Teens, through the Oak Forest Park District when she was in 5th grade and only 10 years old. She would help with activities and events through the Park District such as Movie In the Park, Fire on the Lagoon and Summer Day Camp. She learned to count money, give change, customer service, and setting up for these events. More importantly she learned responsibility, dedication, and punctuality.

Catarina went a step further and volunteered for two summers to work with the Oak Forest Park District staff at their summer camp. This was like a job because they depended on her to be there everyday to help with the kids during the summer. Catarina took this position seriously and always showed up on time and ready to work. This great work ethic was noticed by the staff at Oak Forest Park District. When the job opened up at the concession stand at El Morro Park, Catarina applied and was accepted.

Catarina, who is 15 years old, loves her job at the concession stand at the El Morro Golf Course. It is a great job for a teen because it is fun, close to home, and a pleasant work environment. She rents out golf equipment, sells concessions and handles parties at the park. She is responsible for her cash drawer, balancing it at the end of the night and keeping customers happy. It is a summer job which is important to Catarina since she has a rigorous school schedule with honors and A/P classes. This is great experience for her next step in life which is to become involved with the business program and DECA at Oak Forest High School where she will study business and eventually marketing.

In order to work at the age of 15, Catarina took the initiative to get a special work permit through her counselor at school. She wanted to get a jump on saving money for college. “This was all her own idea”, her mother, Rikki Hernandez, commented when asked about Catarina’s employment. “She wanted to work and she is very driven, so I let her lead the way.” It is many times hard for 15 and even 16 year olds to get their first job because many companies want their applicants to have experience already. It seems ludicrous for a 16 year old to have job experience but that is just what many first time job hunters find out. Catarina set her self up for success by not only volunteering and gaining valuable work experience but being a responsible, punctual, and dedicated volunteer which gave her a leg up on any competition. Catarina’s success proves that volunteering and a little hard work at a young age will produce positive results later in life.

She has some great role models when it comes to hard work, namely, her parents. They have taught Catarina to work hard in life. Dave Hernandez, her father, was born in Guatemala and epitomizes hard work. His hard work in life has paid off with a great union job at he CTA. He also earned his B.A. in Sociology as an adult from U.I.C. where he earned the spot as Valedictorian. Her mom, Rikki Hernandez, grew up in Joliet with 4 siblings and not many resources. Against all odds and many obstacles, she earned her place at Chicago State University where she received her Bachelors in Marketing. She now works as a preschool teacher, substitute teacher in the Arbor Park School District and is a full time mom. Her little sister, Isabella Hernandez is following in Catarina’s footsteps, volunteering for the past 3 years with C.O.U.R.T. It seems that the Hernandez family has it figured out. Hard work, starting as a young adult, sets you up for success.

If you would like your child to follow in Catarina’s foot steps, here are a list of tips:

1. Seek out Opportunities for Volunteering~C.O.U.R.T. is a great one but it that is not your cup of tea, look at Animal Shelters, churches, school PTAs, and local non-profit organizations. Many organizations don’t advertise opportunities that exist, but if you inquire, you might find a need. It never hurts to ask. Also, some organizations do not want young volunteers but sometimes they will allow it if a parent is with them. Don’t give up, you will find something. Even if their volunteer assignment doesn’t lead directly to employment, they will be creating a track record of success that will transfer as experience for a job as a teenager. And the letter of recommendation won’t hurt either.

2. Always show up~Being there is half the battle. Show up and be ready to work. If your child can’t make it, make sure they contact someone. Have them call themselves. This shows responsibility and is a great lesson for your little volunteer.

3. Do what you are assigned~Sometimes they ask you to do something, that you don’t really want to do but do it anyways.

4. Be Polite~This is a no brainer, but sometimes it needs to be said. Politeness is a great attribute for any volunteer.

5. Show up with a Smile~A smile goes a long way.

6. Do Your Best~Organization administrators are always watching. They are noticing if you are doing a great job or slacking off. Your hard work will be noticed.

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