DEAR ABBY: I am a volunteer manager coordinating services between 200 students and tutors in an adult refugee English as a Second Language program. We benefit greatly from the skills and perspectives of young people, but the job requires volunteers to be self-directed and mature enough to handle the assignment. May I offer some advice to those who wish to volunteer for any program for class credit -- as an intern or during summer vacation?
Understand that your assignment is a job. Someone is counting on you to be reliable and do it well -- even though you're not being paid. If you want to volunteer, call me yourself. Our conversation will be, for all intents and purposes, a job interview. I do not want to talk to your mother unless she's the one looking for the assignment.
Nonprofit organizations offer volunteers work experience and insight into a life that is unfamiliar to you. If you're not ready to commit to an assignment, ask the manager if you can "shadow" someone who is currently volunteering. It's a great way to see if the work interests you.
My volunteers are the most dedicated, intrepid, compassionate people I have ever met. They succeed because they're enthusiastic and sincere in their desire to contribute. They range in age from 17 to 82, but they all have one thing in common: They picked up the phone and spent time doing their own research.
Volunteering is an excellent way to make a difference in the world, especially when you understand where you fit into that world. -- VOLUNTEER MANAGER IN DENVER
DEAR MANAGER: Sometimes well-meaning parents try so hard to run interference for their children that they get in the way, and rather than strengthening their children's wings, they don't allow them to develop. For parents of teens and young adults who are interested in volunteering and internships, I hope this letter will serve as a wake-up call. Thank you for writing.