CRF Blog

Beyond volunteering

by Katie Moore

During the National Service Learning Conference in San Jose sponsored by the National Youth Leadership Council. I attended a workshop led by the National Conference on Citizenship. NCOC was founded in 1946 and chartered by Congress in 1953, so it’s not a new player on the scene. The nonpartisan organization focuses on tracking, measuring and promoting civic participation and engagement. Since 2006 NCOC has published an annual report called American’s Civic Health Index. The organization recently began researching civic engagement at the state level, and last year published Civic Health Index reports on California, Illinois, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, and Minnesota.

These reports are incredibly useful resources full of statistics and well-researched data. As these reports show, much youth civic engagement has been in the area of volunteering. I strongly support volunteer efforts, and it is a credit to our country and democracy that Americans are so willing to give generously of their time to help those in need. But our democracy depends on a wide range of civic engagement activities that should be maintained in order to continuously move toward a stronger, healthier democracy. It is critical that young people not only volunteer, but that they also gain the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will help them be the creators of long-term solutions to our society’s problems. As we discussed at the workshop, we certainly applaud and support volunteer opportunities, but those opportunities should be couched in an effort to examine the reasons behind the need. If we want to effect change, we need to do more than volunteer.