There are so many benefits to volunteering that many schools make community service a graduation requirement. Think about it—you can learn new skills or develop skills you already have, gain experience, explore careers, make friends, gain confidence, give back to your community and last but not least—have fun.

Fortunately, there are several organizations in Pierce County that could really use your help. Whether you’re a science geek, a book worm, or you’re ready to pounce on every pup and cuddle every cat, you have the opportunity to indulge and explore your interests all while increasing the quality of life for those in your community.

We’ve gathered a variety of volunteering opportunities for teens, so there is something you are sure to like.

Volunteer with Rabbit
A Humane Society volunteer cuddles with a rabbit. Photo courtesy: Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County

Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County

If you’re an animal lover, the Humane Society could really use your help. Right now, it is in need of cat adoption counselors, dog adoption counselors and people to help out in the pet food pantry. Volunteer Manager Alex Ropes, says, “Volunteering is beneficial to anyone, at every age. Teens, however, can gain many important life skills through volunteer service, skills that will help them in the workforce, and beyond. Some of our most dedicated and hardworking volunteers are those still in high school, with a passion for animals and the desire to make positive change in their community.”

If you enjoy working with people, love animals, can commit to at least six hours a month for at least six months, and are over the age of 16, visit the Humane Society’s website for more information on how you can contribute.

CHI Franciscan Hospitals

Are you addicted to The Good Doctor? Can’t look away from the TV when your mom is watching Grey’s Anatomy? You may not experience the drama portrayed on medical TV dramas, but you can sure pretend by volunteering at one of CHI Franciscan’s hospitals. Pierce County teens have two options: St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma or St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood. If you’re considering volunteering at a hospital, you’re in good company. Volunteers at CHI donate more than 100,000 hours of service in 100 different areas, from gift shops, to nursing stations, to home care. Volunteers must commit to four hours a week for six months, or 100 hours of service within the six months. To volunteer, you must be at least 16 years old. Staff will try to match your position to your talents and interests and provide any necessary training. Visit the website to learn more or to submit an application.

Tacoma Library Volunteer
A volunteer helps library patrons choose books on African-American culture. Photo courtesy: Tacoma Public Library

Tacoma Public Library System

“Mentoring youth volunteers and interns is one of the best parts of my job as a teen services librarian at Tacoma Public Library. Seeing them learn, grow and gain confidence is incredibly rewarding,” says Sara Sunshine Holloway, teen services librarian. “Plus teens are just fun people to be around. They have so much optimism and creativity.”

If you live in Tacoma proper and love to read, volunteering for the Tacoma Public Library System might be a dream come true, but volunteering at a library helps in other ways too. “Getting to help people in the Digital Media Lab has helped build up my social skills and gives me satisfaction when I can help people achieve their vision in their projects. The library community almost feels like a second family, and I’m glad to be a part of it,” says current volunteer, Jordan Montano, age 16.

Volunteers must be at least 16 years old and will usually perform the following tasks: assist staff at library programs or outreach events, clean children’s books, serve as book discussion group leaders, assist staff with local history projects, [and] serve as a mentor in the Digital Media Lab.

“TPL has profoundly aided in many important projects of mine ever since an internship I did over the summer of 2010. Invaluable resources helped me grow in many creative and academic situations and pushed me to new levels of quality that were otherwise unattainable for me. Volunteering here has been a joy to give back to a community that has given me so much as well,” says former intern and current volunteer, Ariel Duchesne. There are eight branches to choose from. Visit the website to find out which location is closest to you.

Pierce County Library System

The Pierce County Library System offers volunteer opportunities to the community, and teens are one of the biggest groups to take advantage of those opportunities. Most teens volunteer to earn community service hours for school, but love it so much that they stay. The number and type of teen volunteer opportunities varies by season and by local library. “We’re very excited because we’re currently in the process of developing some new teen summer volunteer opportunities. This summer teen volunteer program will provide service opportunities for teens and also promote the development of their leadership skills,” says Joy Kim, Customer Experience Manager. Details are still being finalized, but the program information will be shared on the PCLS website once it is ready. The Pierce County Library System has 20 locations to choose from. Visit the PCLS site to learn more or to apply online.

Point Defiance Volunteer
A Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium volunteer makes a new friend. Photo courtesy: PDZA

Point Defiance Zoo

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium offers volunteer opportunities for local youth between the ages of 11-18. By volunteering at PDZA, you will learn more about animals and conservation. “Our youth volunteers have a passionate zeal for wanting to learn about and promote conservation – and change the world. This summer, volunteer programs will provide service opportunities for teens and also promote the development of their leadership skills. In addition to volunteering, many of them participate in a number of conservation activities off-site and as part of a Conservation Action Team. You can find more information about volunteering on the PDZA website