During college, I took a course which partnered with a 3rd grade classroom at a local elementary school. Each week, a group of us would develop and lead a creative writing assignment for the students. Though volunteering has been an enormous part of my life since I was a kid (seriously; ask me about keeping a Crayola-ed “ledger” of all my volunteer hours), I’d never done it for course credit. Flash forward a dozen years and here I am, arranging these kinds of partnerships for my job. (I also now know that the official name for this isn’t “volunteering for a class” but “service learning”).
At 826LA, we work with service learners from colleges and universities all over the city, and service learners volunteer in all of our programs. We usually steer them toward after-school tutoring, because they’re able to develop some really awesome projects and establish connections with our regular students. And this past semester, service learners from Santa Monica College (SMC) and UCLA did some pretty cool things here in Mar Vista.
Under the “reading” umbrella, UCLA students in Professor Beth Goodhue’s class spent weekday afternoons leading a “Bruin Book Club” for our After-School Tutoring students. Each session, the group picks a book to read (titles include My Name is Yoon, Last Stop on Market Street, How Tia Lola Came to Stay, Mama’s Saris, The Name Jar, and Abuela). 826LA students and UCLA service learners take turns reading sentences from the story, and then engage in discussion led by the UCLA students.
Working with Professor Steven Kaufman, a small group of service learners from Santa Monica College led Write On! in after-school tutoring for 2 weeks, leading 826LA students in philosophical discussions with questions like “does money buy happiness?” “why are friends important?” and “do animals think?” Students responded to these questions with conversation, writing, and drawing, like Guadalupe, who wrote, “I think animals think because they know when and how to do things on their own. Animals eat on their own.”
In response to a lively money vs. friends debate, Evelyn wrote, “Friends are more important than money, because you could not buy a friend. Money could not talk to you but, but friends could talk to you.”
Student Luis wrote about the importance of respecting others and yourself. “I think it’s important to be nice and respectful. It makes people happy and say ‘thank you’ for doing a favor. When I’m sad, I treat myself. To make myself feel better I play around. If I don’t do that, I die inside. Self-love really matters. It is inside me and tells me NO MATTER WHAT KEEP ON TRYING.”
Service learners provide valuable support to our programs, supplementing our regular, amazing corps of volunteers. Trained alongside other volunteers, service learners often bring in their own innovative ideas and work with a project in mind, from Loyola Marymount University students analyzing our on-boarding processes to CSULA students developing curriculum for our Young Authors’ Book Project.
As the year winds down, we want to thank all of our service learning students and professors this year, and we hope to see you again next year! If you know of a professor at a local college or university who might be interested in service learning with 826LA, please email Lauren Humphrey.
~Lauren Humphrey, Volunteer Manager
Interested in becoming a volunteer at 826LA? Find out how here.