Change the world from right here in San Francisco


Volunteering is good for yourself and the community. Graphic by Kate Sagara/Foghorn

Kate Sagara

Staff Writer

College students are busy, and you can’t argue that fact. However, we live in this incredible, vibrant city that offers exciting and engaging opportunities unlike any other. There are so many organizations around us committed to helping the world in different ways, so everyone should be able to find their niche. 

Although many of us are also working full time, buried deep in school work, or just completely swamped with life’s commitments, this stage in our lives is a great time to give back. Also, volunteering experience can add character to a resume. Here are just a few organizations, out of the dozens available, that are perfect for busy students to volunteer at.

Reading Partners

According to the Reading Partners website, only 31% of third grade students in the United States are reading at a third grade level. Volunteers at Reading Partners can help remedy this issue by providing one-on-one literacy tutoring for elementary school students.

Although the primary goal of Reading Partners is to close the child literacy gap, Rosa Parks Elementary site coordinator Karen Zhang said, “Many of our students face challenges outside of school that we can’t imagine, so a tutor who is a constant and dependable presence can really mean a lot to a student.”

Reading Partners actively serves 12 schools in San Francisco and 16 in the East Bay. If interested, volunteers can choose from their numerous locations and commit to their requirement of just one hour a week, making this a great organization for students to help a great cause.

Institute on Aging Day Center

The Institute of Aging Social Day Program is an alternative to residential care where senior citizens can spend their days socializing with others, receive care, and participate in activities, all while being able to continue living in their own homes. According to the Institute of Aging’s website, the activities offered include, but are not limited to: musical performances, short story groups hosted by teachers in the community, interactive art experiences, visits from San Francisco schools, “laughter yoga,” and visits from therapy dogs.

Located close to the USF campus, volunteers can interact with participants of the program, help facilitate activities, and gain a sense of fulfillment. Ariana Figueroa, a senior at USF and a former volunteer for the Institute of Aging, said, “Volunteering at the day center has allowed me to form connections with people I wouldn’t normally get to talk to. I’ve learned so much from their stories and each person I met there has impacted me in some way.”

Figueroa added, “The staff is incredibly supportive and the hours are very flexible.” Their flexibility and close proximity to campus makes this an ideal program for students to volunteer at.

Mardy Harding

Staff Writer

826 Valencia 

826 Valencia is a creativity-based nonprofit whose multiple locations, diversity of volunteer opportunities, and thorough training makes it an ideal location for college students to volunteer. The organization works to help under-resourced youth and children improve their writing and storytelling skills. Volunteers have the opportunity to help a third grade class write their own book at the pirate ship-themed center in the Mission or aid in creating podcasts in the Tenderloin. 826 Valencia also hosts after-school tutoring programs and college application workshops, and volunteers can even help out on location at schools where student writers need an extra hand on school assignments. The required (yet brief) training, combined with your enthusiasm for writing and working with kids, will prepare you to be helpful and have fun. You can pick up volunteer shifts via an online calendar, and internships are available, too.  

Sunday Streets
For 10 Sundays every spring, summer, and fall, Sunday Streets closes down one to four miles of road for seven different communities so residents can use the concrete space to walk, rollerskate, or bike. With no cars allowed, this small nonprofit brings together community resources, activities, food vendors, awareness projects, and more — all within walking distance. Volunteers can help the small nonprofit set up for and clean up after events, assist with vendors, act as crossing guards, or a number of other roles. They are also provided a free lunch and T-shirt. You can spend the day learning more about the unique communities of San Francisco by speaking to the people who live there, as well as learning what it takes to put on huge community events in a complex city like this one. A night of training will inform you of what needs to happen before the fact, and the energetic staff will happily sign off on your hours. Internships are also available.

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