Zachary Tabatchnikoff was looking forward to working with 9th- and 10th-graders at a Wisconsin summer leadership camp this summer.
But when the pandemic led to the camp being canceled, Tabatchnikoff, 19, was left finding ways to salvage his summer.
He had already spent about eight weeks of his first year in college at home and knew he couldn’t do nothing for several more months.
“I felt like a sloth,” he said. “I needed a schedule, something to keep me busy.”
Tabatchnikoff is not alone. With the pandemic canceling camps, limiting volunteer hours and reducing the amount of jobs available, teens across South Florida are trying to find ways to be productive, earn money or clock volunteer hours.
Volunteer and testing requirements for the class of 2020 to receive an award from the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program were lightened, but nothing has been decided for future graduating classes.
Tabatchnikoff got creative. He and a friend decided to team up to run an in-home camp of sorts for younger kids. They planned a full day of activities for five kids from age 3 to 6.
“It actually felt good getting up early,” he said “I felt accomplished.”
For Gabriella Bonwitt, 16, losing the opportunity to be a counselor in training at a North Carolina camp has turned into a chance to “get things accomplished.”
She found a job at a local camp, is taking an online microeconomics class and is spending her free time volunteering to hand out food to those in need.
“There’s many opportunities out there for teens even if it doesn’t seem like it,” she said. “You can volunteer, you can get ahead on your classes, you can use the time to figure stuff out.”
Here’s a look at some of the local opportunities available:
Matthew Lewis, 14, has volunteered in Miami for years because he feels it’s his duty to give back to the people around him. He said the transition to online volunteering required training but he’s glad to continue — life isn’t put on hold just because people can’t see each other in person.
Lewis, a rising sophomore at Miami Palmetto Senior High, is spending his summer mentoring and reading to kids through Jewish Community Services and Achieve Miami, a non-profit organization.
“I know I’m benefiting my community,” he said. “It feels really good to give back to people that might not have the best opportunities in life.”
While common spots including the Humane Society of Greater Miami and hospitals are no longer accepting volunteers, some other places are.
▪ Feeding South Florida is accepting volunteers over 12 to help sort food at its Pembroke Park and Boynton Beach locations. For more information visit https://volunteer.feedingsouthflorida.org.
▪ The American Red Cross is accepting both virtual and in-person volunteers in different specializations.
▪ MorningDay Community Solutions is accepting volunteers with different skills including technological support, stocking shelves, and putting on events. Its warehouses are in Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach.
▪ Mobile School Pantry, which is doing drive-thru pickups instead of its traditional market-style, is accepting volunteers. Applicants can express interest in administration, events, food pickups, distributions, marketing and vendor coordination.
▪ Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science will relaunch its volunteer workdays at Virginia Key North Point with its Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE) program later this summer. To learn more about the program, visit https://www.frostscience.org/museum-volunteers-for-the-environment. The museum also offers other volunteer options for teens 16 and older.
▪ The YMCA of South Florida has several volunteer opportunities at its different centers year-round for teens including the Teen Leaders Club. For more information visit https://ymcasouthflorida.org or call 954-334-9622.
▪ Greater Miami Jewish Federation Jewish Volunteer Center matches teens with various opportunities including food distributions and urban gardening. Teens can earn service hours. For more information visit JewishMiami.org or call 305-576-4000.
While being a camp counselor is a popular summer gig for teens, this year, summer camp opportunities are limited. Some local camps have opened up — and given some teens jobs — but many sleep-away camps remain closed.
▪ Several Chipotle stores in the Miami area are hiring crew members. The age requirement is 16. The open positions are listed on the company’s website at https://jobs.chipotle.com.
▪ Publix hires teenagers as young as 14 for some positions including clerks. To learn more about the company’s policies visit https://corporate.publix.com/careers/stores/how-to-apply.
▪ Pizza Hut is hiring and you need to be at least 16 to apply. Applications can be submitted at jobs.pizzahut.com.
▪ Postmates is hiring drivers who are 18 and older. Visit https://fleet.postmates.com to sign up.
Students interested in law, politics or activism can seek out opportunities with organizations whose missions align with theirs. Political parties and organizations are always looking for phone bank volunteers. They can also contact offices of local politicians and candidates to offer their time, and get an up-close view of the political process during this presidential election year.
Aya Hamza, 17, said she found networking and mentorship opportunities through political volunteering. These opportunities helped set her up to be the young political activist she is today, having created the county’s teen Democrat town hall and U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala’s Youth Advisory Council.
Hamza, a rising senior at Coral Gables Senior High, encourages volunteers to think beyond the presidential election when looking for campaigns to get involved with. She said local elections provide experiences that may even be more fulfilling.
“With those more grassroots campaigns, you get more ability to get leadership with the more accountability you show,” she said.
▪ Local campaigns including for school board members, representatives and senators on the U.S. and state levels, circuit courts, mayoral and county/city commission races are all open to volunteers.
▪ The Florida Democratic Party and Florida Republican Party are looking for volunteers ahead of the 2020 presidential election to help with phone banking and other tasks. Sign up for the Democrats at https://www.floridadems.org/get-involved/volunteer and for the Republicans at https://florida.gop/volunteer/.
▪ Engage Miami is a civic leadership organization that works to build “political power for young people in South Florida.” Get involved with events, on-campus organizing, voter registration, canvassing or research at https://engage.miami/get-involved/.
▪ Miami-Dade County teen court is open to middle and high schoolers interested in legal and criminal justice careers. It is intended to improve leadership and foster positive interaction. Find the teen court volunteer application at https://miamidadecounty.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cNNGFAM4gThG0IZ.
For students who have always wanted to learn a skill or explore an interest, this summer might be the perfect time to do so. From foreign languages and coding to business and psychology — and everything in between — free educational resources are out there.
▪ Miami-Dade College dual enrollment classes are offered virtually this summer. Enroll and find more information at https://www.mdc.edu/future-students/high-school/dual-enrollment.aspx.
▪ Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers free classes in almost any subject at https://ocw.mit.edu/index.html.
▪ Harvard University courses are free, but certifications are paid. They are also offered in many subjects at. https://www.edx.org/school/harvardx.
▪ Alison courses are free, but certifications are paid at https://alison.com/.
▪ Coursera is an online learning website that offers many free classes in computer coding, data visualization and artificial intelligence, taught by experts from Stanford, the University of Michigan, IBM and other top places.
▪ Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is offering a series of week-long virtual camps for children ages 11-14. Weekly topics will explore engineering, marine sciences and technology. For more information, visit https://www.frostscience.org/summer-camp-2020/virtual-summer-camp/virtual-6-8-graders.