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15 Best Summer Volunteer Programs for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

High schoolers volunteering during the summer.

15 Best Summer Volunteer Programs for High School Students

As high school students nationwide look forward to the summer break, many seek opportunities to engage in meaningful activities that contribute to their personal and academic growth. The search for impactful experiences leads many to consider summer volunteer programs, which offer a chance to give back to the community and gain invaluable skills, explore potential career paths, and make lasting connections.

This article of the 15 Best Summer Volunteer Programs for High School Students is curated to guide students to do volunteer work. From assisting in cutting-edge scientific research to engaging in environmental conservation efforts and contributing to healthcare services, these programs span various fields and settings. Each offers a unique opportunity to dive deep into real-world problems, work alongside professionals and like-minded peers, and make a tangible impact.

1. NYU’s Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering (ARISE)

  • Location: New York University Campus, NYC
  • Eligibility: NYC residents completing sophomore or junior year in high school, passion for STEM
  • Important Dates: Applications open in November (for the following year). Program dates are typically June to August.

NYU’s Applied Research Innovations in Science and Engineering (ARISE) program stands out as a distinctive opportunity among summer volunteer programs for high school students, offering a deep dive into the realms of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

test tubes with different chemicals

Situated within the vibrant New York University campus, ARISE provides a platform for students who are residents of New York City and are completing their sophomore or junior years in high school.

Participants get to engage in college-level workshops and hands-on lab research across various fields, such as civil and urban engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, and robotics. The program is designed to enable students to work alongside scientists and contribute significantly to ongoing research projects.

The rigorous selection process for ARISE reflects the program’s high standards and the competitive nature of securing a place. Applicants are expected to demonstrate academic preparedness, a genuine passion for STEM, and a high level of motivation. ARISE prepares the next generation of STEM leaders​​by providing a rich scientific inquiry and innovation environment.

2. NASA and UT Austin’s SEES High School Summer Intern Program

  • Location: University of Texas, Austin
  • Eligibility: Sophomores or juniors in high school must be 16 by July 1, have a strong interest in STEM, and be U.S. citizens.
  • Important Dates: The application deadline is around February; the Program runs from March to August, with onsite in July.

The NASA and UT Austin’s SEES High School Summer Intern Program is a cornerstone among summer volunteer programs for high school students, focusing on the expansive fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

This prestigious program, a collaboration between NASA and the University of Texas at Austin, offers high school sophomores and juniors a unique chance to work directly with NASA subject matter experts on Earth and space research projects. Its structure is designed to immerse students in the practical aspects of scientific inquiry, allowing them to assist with analyzing and visualizing data crucial for advancing project objectives.

With an emphasis on real-world application, the program includes a virtual learning component followed by an onsite experience at the University of Texas, Austin, culminating in a Virtual SEES Science Symposium where all project teams present their research findings.

This program underscores the significance of hands-on, experiential learning and highlights the importance of youth involvement in scientific exploration and discovery. The competitive selection process reflects its prestige and high interest among students nationwide, making it a sought-after opportunity for those interested in STEM fields.

3. BioBus Junior Scientist Internship

  • Location: BioBase, Harlem, New York
  • Eligibility: NYC high school students, interest in science and working with younger students
  • Important Dates: Rolling application basis; Program is a 12–month internship​.

The BioBus Junior Scientist Internship emerges as an innovative and engaging fixture within the landscape of summer volunteer programs for high school students, particularly those with a strong inclination towards science and research.

Three students making a project in a table.

Hosted in Harlem, New York, at the BioBase facility, this program offers a paid science research internship that spans 14 months, providing an extended period for in-depth scientific exploration and learning.

High school students in the program kick off their journey with a summer camp boot camp, acquiring essential scientific skills before stepping into a teaching role. As camp counselors in the subsequent BioBus summer camp, they mentor younger students from underrepresented backgrounds, aiming to boost diversity in STEM fields.

This mentorship component is complemented by the interns’ engagement in their independent research projects, guided by the expertise of Ph.D. scientists. Using research-grade microscopes and equipment further enriches their hands-on experience, bridging theoretical knowledge with practical application.

4. American Red Cross

  • Location: Nationwide, USA
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students, opportunities based on zip code
  • Important Dates: Ongoing​.

The American Red Cross stands out in the arena of summer volunteer programs for high school students, offering a broad spectrum of opportunities that cater to a wide array of interests and skills. Renowned for its pivotal role in healthcare and emergency response, the organization opens its doors to young volunteers eager to make a difference in their communities and beyond.

High school students can engage in various activities, ranging from supporting blood donation drives to participating in disaster response initiatives. This exposure allows students to contribute to vital healthcare-related services.

It offers them a unique insight into the challenges and operational aspects of one of the world’s most respected humanitarian organizations. The American Red Cross has streamlined the process for volunteers by enabling them to find opportunities that match their location and interests through an accessible online platform.

This approach facilitates a personalized volunteering journey, ensuring students can easily integrate their efforts with the organization’s wide-reaching missions. By volunteering with the American Red Cross, students not only augment their personal and professional development but also play a role in a more significant movement to alleviate human suffering and enhance community resilience.

5. Meaningful Teens

  • Location: Virtual/Global
  • Eligibility: High school students, tutor refugees, recent immigrants, and low-income youth
  • Important Dates: Ongoing; sign up on the homepage.

Meaningful Teens distinguishes itself within the array of summer volunteer programs for high school students by leveraging the power of virtual volunteering to make a tangible impact across the globe. This unique program enables students to provide educational support to refugees, recent immigrants, and low-income youth, focusing on English language and literacy skills.

Group of students walking together and smiling.

By bridging geographical gaps through online platforms, Meaningful Teens creates an accessible and flexible volunteering opportunity that allows high school students to contribute their time and talents from anywhere.

This approach facilitates a broader reach, benefiting communities that might otherwise lack access to quality education resources, and fosters a sense of global citizenship and empathy among volunteers. Participants in the Meaningful Teens program are matched with projects that align with their skills and interests, ensuring a fulfilling and impactful volunteering experience.

The ease of signing up and the program’s adaptability to individual schedules make it an attractive option for students looking to make a difference during their summer break, all while developing their tutoring and mentorship skills.

6. Special Olympics

  • Location: Various locations, USA
  • Eligibility: Open to high school students, various roles available
  • Important Dates: Ongoing​​

The Special Olympics offers an enriching platform among summer volunteer programs for high school students, aiming to foster inclusion and celebrate the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Best Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities

This global movement organizes sports events and drives health, education, and community-building initiatives, providing a broad canvas for volunteers to contribute their talents and learn. High school students volunteering with the Special Olympics can take on many roles, from coaching and assisting athletes to supporting events and raising awareness.

The organization’s mission to create a more inclusive world resonates deeply within the volunteer experience, offering students a chance to be part of a community that values diversity, courage, and respect.

By participating, students not only gain valuable life skills and leadership experience but also have the opportunity to impact others positively. The Special Olympics exemplifies how sports can be a powerful vehicle for social change, making it a unique and meaningful option for students seeking to volunteer work over the summer.

7. Notre Dame Leadership Seminars

  • Location: Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN
  • Eligibility: High school juniors, top 10% of their class
  • Important Dates: Application opens October 16, Deadline January 22, Program dates July 20 – July 31.

The Notre Dame Leadership Seminars represent a premier opportunity within summer volunteer programs for high school students aimed at cultivating the next generation of global leaders. Hosted by the prestigious University of Notre Dame, these seminars are designed for academically gifted juniors who have demonstrated leadership in their schools, communities, or other social organizations.

A female student smiling at the camera.

The program explores critical global issues through intensive academic seminars, offering topics such as “Global Issues: Violence and Peace in the Modern Age,” among others. This ten-day, cost-free program challenges students intellectually.

It encourages them to understand their leadership potential and how it can be applied to serve the greater good. With a competitive admission process, approximately 120 students are selected each year, typically ranking in the top 10 percent of their class.

Participants can receive one college credit, enhancing the value of this enriching educational experience. The Notre Dame Leadership Seminars are an exceptional choice for high school students seeking to expand their academic horizons and leadership skills over the summer.

8. Telluride Association Summer Seminars (TASS)

  • Location: Various US college campuses
  • Eligibility: High school sophomores and juniors focus on Critical Black and Anti-Oppressive Studies.
  • Important Dates: Application opens November 15, Deadline January 3, Program dates June 23 – August 3.

The Telluride Association Summer Seminars (TASS) stand out as a distinctive choice among summer volunteer programs for high school students, focusing on the intellectual and personal growth of the participants.

Happy students walking together.

These seminars are specifically designed for high school sophomores and juniors, offering a unique academic experience that delves deep into topics of critical social importance. TASS provides a rigorous six-week program where students engage in college-level discussions and coursework on subjects such as Critical Black Studies and Anti-Oppressive Studies.

This program is about academic enrichment and building a community that values democratic living, self-governance, and mutual respect among its members. Admission to TASS is highly competitive, reflecting its commitment to excellence and the transformative impact it aims to have on participants.

The seminars are hosted at various prestigious college campuses across the United States, providing students with a taste of college life and the opportunity to explore complex topics in depth. For those high school students passionate about social justice and looking to challenge themselves intellectually over the summer, TASS represents an unparalleled opportunity to grow, learn, and connect with like-minded peers.

9. Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR)

  • Location: Stanford University
  • Eligibility: High school juniors and seniors, priority to Bay Area students, underrepresented groups encouraged
  • Important Dates: Application deadline February 24, Program dates June 10 – August 1​.

The Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR) is a highly prestigious component among summer volunteer programs for high school students, particularly those interested in the medical sciences and research.

Health care researchers working in life science laboratory

Hosted by Stanford University, one of the leading global research institutions, SIMR offers an immersive eight-week experience, allowing students to conduct primary research across various medically focused projects. This program is tailored to high school juniors and seniors, giving them a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in biomedical research.

Participants can choose from eight distinct areas of study, including immunology, neurobiology, cancer biology, bioengineering, stem cell and regenerative medicine, cardiovascular biology, bioinformatics, and genetics and genomics, enabling them to explore their specific interests in depth.

The initiative is an educational journey and a mission to increase diversity within the scientific community, with a particular emphasis on encouraging participation from groups traditionally underrepresented in biomedical research.

10. Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) at Carnegie Mellon University

  • Location: Carnegie Mellon University
  • Eligibility: High school juniors age 16 or older, interested in STEM, underrepresented backgrounds encouraged
  • Important Dates: Application deadline March 1, Program dates June 22 – August 3​​.

The Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) at Carnegie Mellon University represents a cornerstone in summer volunteer programs for high school students, especially those interested in STEM fields.

man is studying for his exam, solving math problems to practice.

This program is designed for high school juniors at least 16 years old and strongly inclined to pursue undergraduate STEM degrees. Over six weeks, SAMS participants are immersed in a comprehensive curriculum that deepens their knowledge across various STEM disciplines and equips them with hands-on experience through classroom instruction, practical projects, and mentorship opportunities.

Hosted by one of the leading institutions in science and technology education, Carnegie Mellon University, SAMS is committed to fostering an inclusive environment. It strongly encourages applications from students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in STEM fields.

This initiative not only aims to bridge the gap in STEM education but also prepares students for future academic and professional endeavors in these critical areas. The program, offered at no cost to participants, underscores the importance of accessible, high-quality educational experiences in shaping the next generation of innovators and leaders in science and technology.

11. The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM)

  • Location: Hampshire College
  • Eligibility: High school students interested in mathematics
  • Important Dates: Application deadline not specified, Program dates June 30 – August 10​.

The Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics (HCSSiM) is distinguished among summer volunteer programs for high school students passionate about mathematics. Set in the intellectually vibrant environment of Hampshire College, HCSSiM offers a six-week intensive dive into the world of mathematical thought and exploration.

asian senior high school male teacher teach math online through webcam in classroom

Now in its 52nd session, this program is designed for students eager to challenge themselves beyond the conventional high school curriculum and delve into more complex and intriguing mathematical concepts and problems.

Participants engage in a comprehensive schedule that includes lectures, problem-solving workshops, and individual and collaborative research projects. HCSSiM’s commitment to fostering a deep understanding of mathematics among young scholars is evident in its immersive approach, which encourages students to live and breathe mathematics throughout their stay.

This unique setting promotes academic excellence and cultivates a community of like-minded individuals who share a love for mathematics. HCSSiM plays a crucial role in inspiring the next generation of mathematicians and critical thinkers by providing an environment where students can explore advanced topics and develop problem-solving skills.

12. Mayo Clinic’s High School Student Summer Volunteer Program

  • Location: Mayo Clinic locations
  • Eligibility: Students aged 15-18 as of May 1, 2024, still in college, committed to eight weeks of service.
  • Important Dates: The program runs from June 3, 2024, to July 26, 2024. A mandatory virtual interview will be on April 20, 2024, and an in-person orientation will be on May 11, 2024. The application deadline is March 1, 2024​.

Mayo Clinic’s High School Student Summer Volunteer Program is a prime example of a summer volunteer program for high school students that combines service with learning in a healthcare setting.

Medical Research Laboratory

This eight-week initiative, running from June 3, 2024, to July 26, 2024, offers high school students a unique opportunity to volunteer in both clinic and hospital environments, providing invaluable insights into the workings of one of the world’s leading healthcare institutions.

Designed for students currently enrolled in high school and aged between 15 and 18 as of May 1, 2024, the program seeks individuals still in college and committed to serving throughout the program’s duration.

The application process includes a mandatory virtual interview and an in-person orientation, emphasizing the program’s commitment to preparing students for a future in healthcare. Volunteers benefit from worthwhile work opportunities, exploring healthcare careers, attending educational presentations, and fostering new friendships.

13. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center HOPP Summer Student Program

  • Location: New York
  • Eligibility: Ages 14-18
  • Important Dates: 8-week program during the summer. Application deadline: February 10, 2024.

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center HOPP Summer Student Program is an enriching addition to the array of summer volunteer programs for high school students interested in the medical field, particularly those drawn to oncology and biomedical research.

Pretty student walking in the hallway of a building.

This prestigious 8-week internship provides students aged 14-18 with firsthand experience in biomedical or computational research at one of the world’s leading cancer research centers. Participants are matched with mentors to guide their activities, helping them to develop essential research skills and complete a self-directed project that aligns with their mentor’s overall research objectives.

This program offers students an invaluable opportunity to explore potential career paths in science and medicine, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to cancer research. The HOPP Summer Student Program underscores the importance of early exposure to scientific research and mentorship, fostering the next generation of scientists and medical professionals committed to the fight against cancer.

14. Columbia University BRAINYAC

  • Location: New York
  • Eligibility: Ages 15-17
  • Important Dates: Summer timeline.

Columbia University’s BRAINYAC program stands as a dynamic cornerstone within the spectrum of summer volunteer programs for high school students, particularly those fascinated by the intricacies of brain research.

an image of brain on a CT scan result

This initiative, spearheaded by the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University, provides high schoolers aged 15-17 with an immersive, hands-on research experience directly within Columbia’s state-of-the-art laboratories.

BRAINYAC is designed to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, offering students a unique window into the world of scientific inquiry. Participants have the rare opportunity to connect with natural scientists, acquiring critical skills for navigating the research environment and fostering a deeper understanding of neuroscience.

Beyond just skill acquisition, BRAINYAC serves as a gateway for students to become part of the esteemed Columbia University community, encouraging a deeper engagement with the field of science and paving the way for future scientific endeavors.

15. Georgia Aquarium Beginner Environmental Leadership Program

  • Location: Georgia
  • Eligibility: Ages 15-17
  • Important Dates: Runs three times a year for four months each session, including the summer and during school breaks and weekends.

The Georgia Aquarium Beginner Environmental Leadership Program offers a standout opportunity among summer volunteer programs for high school students passionate about marine life and conservation.

Young marine biologist getting showing a specimen.

Targeted at students aged 15-17, this program is designed to cultivate future leaders in environmental protection through a hands-on, immersive experience that spans the summer and beyond. Participants can engage directly with the aquarium’s diverse aquatic ecosystems, learning about the challenges these environments face and developing the skills to educate others about the importance of conservation.

This program runs three times a year for four months each, allowing students to get involved during the summer, on breaks, and weekends throughout the school year. It’s an ideal setting for teens to ignite their passion for aquatic life, gain valuable volunteer experience, and make a tangible impact on environmental conservation efforts.

The Beginner Environmental Leadership Program at the Georgia Aquarium offers a unique volunteer experience. It fosters a deep sense of community and shared purpose among its participants, making it an advantageous option for young environmental enthusiasts.

Conclusion

The summer volunteer programs for high school students above embody a broad spectrum of opportunities tailored to various interests and goals. Whether you’re drawn to the sciences, passionate about social justice, or inspired by environmental conservation, there’s a program that aligns with every aspiration.

These programs equip students with practical skills and knowledge and foster a sense of global citizenship and a commitment to making a difference. By participating in one of these esteemed programs, students take a significant step towards their future careers and personal development, all while contributing positively to the community and world around them.

Engaging in these volunteer opportunities can be a transformative experience, opening doors to new possibilities and paving the way for a bright future.

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