Managing Finances

Encourage your student to volunteer

By Judy McNary

Ask anyone who volunteers and they’ll tell you they get more out of it than they give.

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High School Parent | College Parent

For our students, volunteering provides an added bonus — a chance to show prospective employers qualities they possess that don’t show up on a college transcript.

I volunteer for a number of organizations but the volunteering I write about here is the most unusual. Share this post with your young adults to help them start thinking about all the possibilities that are out there!

I was in training to be a volunteer scuba diver at the new aquarium in Denver when the marine biologist barked this instruction. “Never, ever put leftover squid down the garbage disposal!”

Umm…what? I suppressed a giggle (my fellow volunteers-in-training were maintaining quite solemn expressions). Our group was in the life sciences kitchen learning the ins and outs of food prep for marine animals, worlds away from my office day job. Who knew there could be serious fallout from putting squid down a garbage disposal? Not me.

That’s what’s great about volunteering. You can expose yourself to an altogether new, even exotic, activity and it can be just plain FUN. At the aquarium, I feed sting rays and moray eels. I wave through the glass at children, pose for pictures, and spend hours scrubbing algae (okay, well that part is not so fun). I’m nose to nose with sharks and turtles and all kinds of interesting sea creatures. Hands down it’s the best diving in Colorado.

Plus it’s free. Free is good.

Just like scuba diving doesn’t have to be an expensive trip to a faraway land, there are cheap ways of doing just about everything. If you’re a teacher and you like travel, organize a trip for your students and lead it. Your trip is paid for! Like to ski or snowboard? Join ski patrol or become an instructor. You get a season pass and discounts on food, gear and clothing. Even if you’re not a good skier/boarder, contact the ski area’s employment office and ask about volunteer activities. They need help hosting events all season long.

It’s not only sports. If you like theater, volunteer to be an usher. You get to see all the shows for free. Museums need ushers and docents as well — my niece volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and loves it. Medically trained? Opportunities are everywhere!

Think about what you like to do, and I guarantee there’s a way to do it for free somewhere, somehow. All it takes is a little creativity. The perfect opportunity to volunteer and, at the same time, do something you love for free, is waiting for you.

And remember, never put leftover squid down the garbage disposal. (The tendrils “do a real number” on the disposal, to quote the marine biologist. Yuck.)

By the way, 1% of all proceeds from the sale of my book, Coin: The Irreverent but Practical Guide to Money Management for Recent College Graduates, is donated to Project Aware, “Protecting Our Ocean Planet — One Dive at a Time.”

Judy McNaryCopyright 2014. A version of this column was originally published in 2010 under the title “You don’t put leftover squid down the garbage disposal.”

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