Walking up to a stranger and asking for help is not easy. It takes courage to approach someone, but knowing the proper way to reach out safely is crucial to your success. Though taking the first step in interacting with your community can be intimidating, the environments we live in and interact with can be cornucopias of opportunities for you to develop leadership skills and help others in need. The tips and tricks below can enable you to confidently interact with your community and successfully get involved.
Why Reach Out?
As an NSHSS member, you have demonstrated your desire and determination to succeed. Talking to those around you about opportunities can present you with ways to better yourself and those around you!
Taking On Community Service
Community service hours are required by many schools and organizations and taking time to aid others is a great way for you to grow as a person. When looking for a new opportunity to volunteer, one of the best ways to discover events taking place near you is by reaching out to nonprofits or academic organizations (like NSHSS!). For example, ask a local pet shelter if they need help caring for any of their animals or if you can assist in other ways. Research an organization you’re interested in working with by browsing their website, contact their staff directly through email or phone, and inquire about any opportunities to participate in events or weekly volunteer opportunities.
Alternatively, you can demonstrate leadership skills by starting your own service-oriented initiatives. After coming up with an idea and formulating a plan to put your goals into action, communicate with organizations like charities, schools, and companies to find other volunteers, sponsors, and attendees for events you lead. With efforts like these, it is okay to start small. Initiatives do not have to involve thousands of people to be successful, and efforts like hosting a bake sale or car wash to fundraise for a charity are perfect ways to start interacting with your community.
Interning or Shadowing
High school is a great time to embark upon your first internship experience. Many organizations around you, like hospitals, universities, and companies, may want you as part of their team during a summer or over the course of a few weekends. Getting in contact with these organizations early-on will enable you to plan opportunities with these organizations. However, not every company will be looking for interns year-round. To ensure the highest chances of obtaining an opportunity to work with a group, look for internship opportunities on their websites prior to getting in contact with them.
Learning More About the World Around You
Sometimes, the best way to learn more about something is to ask an expert! Professionals typically love interacting with students who are genuinely interested in exploring the same field as them, where they can share their own expertise and provide guidance to succeed in the field. Conducting interviews with people who work in careers you want to investigate, like doctors, authors, businesspeople, is the perfect way to discover new information and see if you would be a good match for that line of work.
Ways to Stay Safe
It is always a good idea to take multiple safety measures when interacting with strangers. For instance, when reaching out to someone online, practice digital safety guidelines, like CC-ing a trusted adult on emails to new people. If you are going to be interacting with someone in-person, meet in public locations like coffee shops before interacting with them privately, and always ensure a trusted adult can accompany you.
How to Reach Out
It is imperative that you make a good first impression when interacting with your community. To do this, take steps to ensure you are coming across in a professional way and demonstrate how passionate you really are about your work. Some easy steps to do so include:
- Searching for information about the organization you want to work with online
- Putting a resume together (NSHSS offers resume workshops at events like Scholar’s Day)
- Preparing talking points and questions for interviews ahead of time
- Having a friend, advisor, or parent proofread emails and documents before you hit “send”
- Ending emails with your name and contact information
How to Send a Professional Email
First, start with a greeting like “Good afternoon,”.
Use the first sentence to introduce yourself! Include your grade and school or city.
Next, briefly explain why you are reaching out to this person. This is a nice time to include information you have read online about the organization but be sure not to go into too much detail about what they do, since they are the ones doing it!
Next, mention a call-to-action. What are you offering or asking of the organization? Also take this space to explain why this is beneficial to the both of you. For example, if you are reaching out about volunteering at an event, explain how volunteering can help you and how your efforts will be of service to the organization. If you are trying to set a meeting up with someone, propose a range of dates and times so they can pick what would work best for them (“I would love to speak with you on Monday or Thursday next week between 2:30 and 4:00 pm.”). Keep their schedule in mind when doing this; most people end their workdays at 5:00 pm.
End by thanking them for their time and stating that you look forward to their response.
Sign off with your name and contact information!
These tips are a great starting point for setting your goals into motion. When you contact someone new, it may take them some time to respond. If you do not hear back from the organization in a week, try reaching back out with a follow-up email. Interacting with your community takes time and effort, but the ultimate results will help your leadership, public speaking, and writing skills flourish.
About the Author
Sara Kaufman is a rising high school senior and NSHSS Ambassador. An NSHSS member since 2021 and TEDx Speaker, she enjoys elucidating the connections between science and art through efforts like speeches and scientific research projects. Sara is also a published author of a book to help children with anxiety and founder of a charity that grants cancer patients access to a world outside the hospital through electronic devices. She is a proponent of "dreaming big" and wants to inspire others to accomplish their goals, however lofty they may be.