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Summer Opportunities for Teens

Perform a Service

Non-profit organizations never, ever have enough money to do the good works they are set up to do. Organizations such as these provide you with an ideal opportunity to help yourself by helping others. Take a fresh look at some of your own interests and think about what you can offer to a local charity, a camp for special kids, a hospital, nursing home, religious organization, or park. Put your heart into your work and find new heart within yourself.

John has never liked school. Never. He has rarely done well and finds sitting in class pure torture. It’s hard to know what came first — the dislike or the not doing well. Either way, the school year isn’t much fun for him. The year before last, however, the one bright spot in his day was sculpture class. He loved the mess and spontaneity of clay, metals, pieces of wood, and paper-mache.

Thanks to a teacher who noticed that John somehow made it to his class even when he didn’t show up at others, John spent last summer teaching kids with cancer to use art as a way to manage their pain. The experience didn’t make him like school any better, but it did put his problems in a whole new light. And, for the first time in a long time, John felt that maybe there was work he could enjoy doing. In fact, he’s going back this summer. The camp has made him assistant director of the arts cabin.

Develop Your Skills

Here’s something you may not have noticed — the people who are the most successful in the world of work are the people who know how to do three things:

  1. Manage people: They can organize people to do things, bring out the best in others, and/or help people resolve conflicts;
  2. Manage “stuff”: They’re whizzes at figuring out what supplies are needed to do a job, ordering them, arranging them, keeping records, and keeping things neat; and
  3. Manage money: They excel at creating a budget, fundraising, spending money, and being able to account for it.

Most schools teach “subjects.” They don’t systematically teach these crucial management skills. Some teens are lucky enough to fall into a school organization or sports team where leadership is important. Others get their first taste of management through organizing a school dance or trip. Still others work their way up through the ranks of scouts or a church youth group. But most of us have to go out of our way to find opportunities to learn and practice making things happen.

Summer can be your personal “third semester,” a time when you design a curriculum for yourself to learn how to be an effective manager. Find a project. Find a mentor. And take on as much responsibility as you can handle.

Ian talked the campaign manager for one of the candidates for governor of his state into letting him intern for the summer. He’s learning how politics work by being close to the action. Jan has been a swimming teacher at the local pool for three years now. This year, she is taking on the job of assistant director to broaden her skills. Tony is taking on a management position at the retail shop he staffed last year. Angel is working as assistant director for a playground program in his community.

Ian, Jan, Tony, and Angel are each going to earn far more than a paycheck this summer — they are going to get a head start developing the habits and know-how that will help them achieve success in whatever fields they ultimately choose.

It’s your summer — three or four lo-o-o-o-ng months to call your own. How will you stake your claim to this golden opportunity?

Summer Opportunities for Teens

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2018). Summer Opportunities for Teens. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 7, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.