Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: Summer as an opportunity for service

by  Mr. Michael Wagner

On average, the typical summertime break for schools is about 60 - 70 days. As many students see it, these are the number of days to be out of school to kick-it, chill, relax, sleep, or whatever.  This is the payoff many feel they deserve, because of the hard work they have done during the year. It is their self-appointed time to be a kid.

Don’t take me wrong, I believe students should have balance in their lives, no different than adults. However, I believe that high school students, including those rising freshmen who have just completed 8th grade, should also dedicate time to focus on their futures. This is a time when they can take a mental break from school while also pursuing the opportunity to obtain other valuable knowledge. Ideally, this experience will be meaningful, purposeful, and impactful not just in their lives, but also in the lives of others in their community.

A summer of opportunity

When students begin to consider what activities they would like to undertake during the summer, I recommend they begin by using the power of personal reflection. Take a self-inventory of what activities you like to do, things that make you feel good, and interests that give you personal satisfaction. Those activities always tend to be the best and most rewarding, because they do not feel like work. As the saying goes, choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Students should adopt this philosophy when choosing summer community service or volunteer activities.
group of hands on a log

Relate it to your college and career interests

I realize that many students do not have a firm idea of what college majors they will pursue, much less what careers they will undertake. However, after giving some thought to what you are interested in, what you are enthusiastic about, and what types of activities you consider fun, think about what would be impactful in your community. For example, if you are interested in a career in medicine, investigate volunteering at a local hospital or clinic.  If you want to work in the technology industry, perhaps you can assist the local community center with updating its website.

If you can link an activity to what your college major or career interest may be, you will be better able to use the experience when writing college applications and essays too. Also, I encourage you to choose activities during your high school years that are high in personal value and quality over a large quantity of random and unrelated experiences. Specifically, you should not choose an activity just for the sake of doing an activity that “looks good.” 

Consider your impact

What you choose to do speaks to your character and integrity. 

Again, think about how you can be a difference-maker in your community and then how you can connect that activity to something you want to do in the future.  Get away from what will be the most impressive on your brag sheet.  If you are doing work that is meaningful, purposeful, and impactful, your brag sheet will take care of itself. Colleges and universities are looking for valuable extracurricular activities that have a real connection to who the student is, what the student’s reasons are for doing the work, and how that work is linked to an impactful outcome. If the work is not a reflection of you, trust me, colleges and universities will see right through it.         

Personal satisfaction

Working within your community benefits your health too.  Studies have shown that the simple act of serving others can improve a person’s physical health and mental well-being.  You will also build your human skills, such as collaboration and communication.

So, as summertime is upon us, I encourage you to use this time for the power of reflection. Think about what you can do this summer to take advantage of those 60-70 days by performing meaningful service activities in your community.

Remember, it is activities like this that will help you along your path to success, not just in high school, but also during your time at a university, during your career, and in life.

Here’s to an enjoyable, and impactful, summer break.

Mr. Michael J. Wagner

Michael Wagner, MAED is a founder and the Knowledge Pilot for Launch Education.  Mr. Mike has assisted hundreds of students around the world on their college pathways