"Big Four" Highlights


Young and Involved

Millennials express high interest in community engagement

By Jason Godin

Although young people often have the reputation of thinking about themselves in a “me generation” perspective, the fact is that service to others is important to millennials. Many parents grew up giving to the Catholic missions or supporting the more secular Peace Corps, but today young people are urged to focus more on their own communities to make a difference.

In fact, some of the best and brightest of younger millennials show a marked willingness to provide help where their efforts are needed. The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) is an Atlanta-based, invitation-only honor society that requires from students more than high academic excellence. According to its annual career survey for 2015, its members spend an average of five hours weekly serving their communities, but are willing to spend up to 10 hours in such efforts (p. 33).

This statistic is a bright sign for anyone who despairs of the next generation, and it is certainly welcome news for the older generation, which may be in need of help in the years to come. But some may ask of millennials: How enthusiastic is their involvement? What does their service to community actually look like in practice? Who among them has a higher tendency to participate? And when, if at all, do they involve family?

Four particular results from the report stand out to help provide answers:

  • About 77% of respondents reported that they’re somewhat (53.0%) or very engaged (24.1%) in their community.

    Figure 3.14, p. 33

  • The major types of activities they took part in: helping family, friends and/or neighbors (79.1%); participating in community organizations or events (73.3%) and spending free time volunteering (55%).

    Figure 3.15, p. 34

  • Female respondents reported higher than males in regards to spending their free time volunteering (57.3% to 48.5%; 8.8% difference).

    Figure 3.17, p. 35

  • Current high school and college students participate in community organizations or events more frequently than college graduates (76.7% and 65.6%, respectively, to 54.3%); spend more of their free time volunteering (57.6% and 48.9%, respectively, to 44.1%) and helping family, friends and neighbors (79.5% and 78.2%, respectively, to 74.4%).

    Figure 3.18, p. 36

Community engagement clearly exists among a majority of the younger millennials surveyed, particularly women in high school and college. It takes strongest form earlier in their education than later. It encompasses an array of activities.

It also involves families. As the NSHSS survey shows, for younger millennials community engagement involves interacting with and helping the ones they love. By a large margin, they say that such service is important to their lives and who they are and want to be. They’re anxious to make a difference in their immediate surroundings, sooner as opposed to later. And with their acts of generosity, kindness and sharing, they’re desire to help and make a difference makes us all richer as families and communities. Let’s hope that they continue to contribute to the common good as they get older and take on life’s wider challenges.

Jason Godin is associate editor of Fathers for Good.