Civic Engagement and Volunteering

Civic Engagement and Volunteering

Did You Know?

While youth are more likely to register to vote in school, only about 1 in 10 of them does.


Civic engagement involves “working to make a difference in the civic life of one’s community and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes” (Erlich, 2000). Civic engagement includes both paid and unpaid forms of political activism, environmentalism, and community and national service (Michelson et al, 2002). Volunteering is one form of civic engagement.

Many of the nation’s volunteers are young people. More than half (59 percent) of teenagers in the United States reported that they participated in youth volunteer work in 2009, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service (2010). Most youth volunteers do so out of altruism and an interest in making in a difference in the lives of others, according to one survey. Only five percent of students reportedly volunteered because of a school requirement (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2005).

View ReferencesReferences

Corporation for National and Community Service. (2010a). Youth engaged in service. Retrieved from

Corporation for National and Community Service. (2005). Building active citizens: The role of social institutions in teen volunteering. Brief 1 in the Youth Helping America series. Washington, DC. Retrieved from (PDF, 24 Pages)

Erlich, T. (2000). Civic responsibility and higher education. Westport, CT: Oryx Press.

Michelsen, E., Zaff, J. F., & Hair, E. C. (2002). Civic engagement programs and youth development: A synthesis. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Retrieved from (PDF, 51 Pages)

Stone, B. & Edwards, H. (2008). National framework for 4-H Volunteerism. National 4-H Headquarters, Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Services, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from (PDF, 10 Pages)


Updated: Monday, August 25, 2014

Youth Voices

Feature Articles
Teens working in a garden Report Shows Majority of Americans Civically Engaged in Their Communities

(Washington, D.C., September 15, 2011) - Between 2008 and 2010, a majority of Americans were civically active in a variety of ways, working with others to improve their communities.

photo of Sierra Washington State Youth Take Civic Activism To New Level

Non-academic barriers to learning, such as those facing Sierra, were the focus of a Civic Engagement Forum in February of 2009. This two-day event brought young people from dropout prevention and school health programs to advise the Washington State Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC).

4H logo 4-H Members Raise Awareness of Meningitis

In Louisiana, 4-H youth took their civic engagement skills and put them towards something life changing—advocating and lobbying for meningitis prevention.