By Iris Zeng
In the midst of studying for midterms, working on group projects, participating in extracurricular activities, and going on co-op, it can be difficult to find time to explore and serve the community around us. Luckily for us, the Boston area has many different opportunities to get involved and address the diverse needs of the city.
Whether you’re a student new to volunteering in the area or someone looking to fit a few hours of community service into their tight schedule, here are four organizations that work to directly benefit our community through services ranging from after school programming to ESL classes (they’re all within walking distance of campus too!):
- United South End Settlements (USES)
Interested in working with young children? Have a knack for tutoring older students? As a center of neighborhood engagement, the goal of USES is to build a strong community by offering the surrounding population access to skills that are necessary to help live their lives to the fullest. You could work with adults working towards passing their High School Equivalency Test by helping them in subjects such as basic math, reading, and writing. Or, you could lead an art activity with a group of preschool children to enhance learning and enrichment in USES’ after school program.
The overall time commitment in any of USES’ programs is 1-3 hours per week, Monday through Friday.
- Rosie’s Place
Rosie’s Place is a women’s shelter that provides services ranging from meals to housing and educational support. Volunteers can assist during meal preparation and service, help guests shop in the food pantry, or provide support for an isolated woman in the community.
I had the opportunity one night to assist with preparing dinner and serving it to a group of women in a waitress-style manner. After all the food had been served, we were able to sit down and have conversations over a meal together. The atmosphere overall was very welcoming; the guests would warmly greet other women who they recognized, and several guests were on a first-name basis with some of the volunteers. In addition to food, volunteers are also able to hand out much needed toiletries during dining room hours.
The overall time commitment in any of Rosie’s Place’s programs is 2-3 hours per shift. Instead of coming in on a set time and day every week, volunteers can sign up for shifts using the organization’s online database.
- St. Stephen’s Youth Programs (SSYP)
The goal of SSYP is to provide young people from areas of Boston’s most disadvantaged communities with year-round, after school academic enrichment. The organization serves 850 young people in grades K – 12+ and includes programming for elementary, middle, and high school students. Volunteers can serve as mentors in the teen program or work as tutors in the after school program. Currently, SSYP is looking for volunteers in the K – 4th grade after school program to help children with homework/enrichment activities and to support students in order to build positive relationships.
As a part of my Child Intervention & Treatment class, I am currently serving at SSYP at their site in Lower Roxbury. It’s exciting to converse with the kids during snack time, and homework is usually finished quickly when the children are really focused. There is a period where they can play games or complete an activity; depending on the day, we can be playing Apples to Apples or making Valentine’s Day cards for loved ones. Recently, I taught a small group of kids how to fold their own paper cranes; they were all very eager to learn!
The overall time commitment in SSYP’s after school program is 3-4 hours per week, Monday through Friday. The program runs from 2:30 – 6pm whenever school is in session, so volunteers are welcome anytime between 2pm and 6pm. Although it’s not required, it is helpful if you can speak Spanish.
- Northeastern University Teaching English Language & Literacy Skills (NUTELLS)
NUTELLS is different from the other three organizations in that it is a Northeastern group located on campus. The goal of NUTELLS is to teach English to Northeastern’s custodial and dining hall staff in order to foster a stronger sense of community throughout the university. Each class is 1 – 1.5 hours long, and each tutor is assigned one or two students depending on the number of tutors per class. The curriculum is extremely flexible; often times, you will be teaching the student what they want to know, whether its conversational topics or new vocabulary.
Through NUTELLS, I’ve gotten to know some of the dining hall employees well and help them with anything English-related that they want to learn. The dining hall and custodial staff work hard to serve us; this is a great way to give back and provide a service in return!
The overall time commitment with NUTELLS is one hour per week during specific class times; however, volunteers are always welcome to do more hours! Class times range from Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons to Monday and Wednesday nights. Although this is definitely not required, it is helpful if you can speak Spanish or Chinese.
For more information, email NUTELLS at email@example.com.