So for most high school and university students, this is the panicky period of time that’s slightly too early for finals yet close enough for those simultaneous feelings of anxiety and procrastination to set in, and we all sit in an educational purgatory waiting for the exam-armageddon to release upon us. Neither studying nor relaxing, many of us have a short break from huge projects, but know that cumulative final or twenty-page paper is just a dash around the corner. So while you’re obviously not studying (which, no shame, we all understand) you could at least spend your time benefitting someone else, if not yourself. So here is a list of places to go where you can not only help others, but also help yourself a bit by not totally time you could be using to study.
*note: this list is specified towards the University of Georgia/Athens area, but with a Google search you can find many similar programs around you.
1. Athens Humane Society
I personally do this one quite often. By going on their website (HERE) you can sign up to volunteer at the Athens Humane Society for a one-hour or multi-hour slot to help with the shelter animals. There’s all sorts of jobs you can do, but especially in the stress of academia, I recommend the socialization volunteering. You basically get to sit in a room with dogs or cats (whichever your preference) and play with them for an hour to get them used to having many different people around so that, when they are finally adopted, they don’t go crazy on their new owners. It’s a lot of fun and the animals are complete angels. Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend an hour cuddling a kitten? I’d rather hold a dog than my Economics textbook.
2. The Morton Theater
The arts are unfortunately receiving little to no funding by public boards, so oftentimes, especially for community theaters, their staff relies entirely on the generosity of donations and volunteering. HERE you can volunteer for many different positions to assist in one of the many choral, theatrical, etc. performances offered at The Morton Theater in Athens. Ushers in particular are needed in every theater, so the Morton is just one example. And very often if you do volunteer, you get free tickets to the show! So if you’re an artsy person like myself (thanks four years of high school theater) this is totally in your element. It’s an easy opportunity with fun benefits, and one of the few jobs that’ll leave you clapping by the end of the night.
3. Rocksprings Community Center
I highlight this particular center because it has a program though UGA, Whatever It Takes, in which students volunteer to give homework help, tutoring, mentoring, and other assistance for special after school programs to the children of Athens-Clarke County. However, at almost every community center there are tutoring, mentoring, and recreational volunteering opportunities. Heads up Early Childhood Ed. majors, here’s a great place to get involved with elementary-aged kids and make a difference in the community around your university. Plus, kids are just fun. Working at a daycare, while stressful, was one of the most fun and rewarding jobs of my life. Thankfully the kids at WIT are a bit older (no diaper-changing required) and there’s no feeling comparable to seeing a smile on a child’s face and knowing you’re the reason behind it.
4) Southeast Clarke Park
Again, another one that applies to almost every park, but I can only talk about one. Southeast Clarke Park was built by volunteers, so they are integral to their structure and upkeep. As a volunteer, you have the choice of either working as a Trail Keeper, which includes safety monitoring, cleaning, and general upkeep, or as a Soccer Coach, in which you’ll commit about two to three hours a week working with a team of kids ages 4-12 to learn the sport, learn to love the sport, and participate in games each week. No prior training is necessary, just come with an understanding of soccer and an enthusiasm for learning! Coaches are some of the most influential forces in a young child’s life, so taking this opportunity will surely be an incredible experience. You can look further into their open positions HERE.
5) Bear Hollow Zoo
This one is by far the most involved, but arguably the coolest of the five. At Bear Hollow Zoo, located in Memorial Park by Five Points, there’s literally bears. How cool is that? All the bears are “rehab” animals, meaning they cannot live in the wild, so they’re pretty much fully socialized. There are many different tasks to perform: animal care, animal training, performing as a docent, meaning you’re the person with all the fun animal/nature facts, or even a tour guide! There are other animals besides the bears, so if you were never a big fan of the Berenstain’s, no problem. The jobs come with basic training, so don’t worry about coming in an animal expert. This is a super fun, unique experience not many can have while in undergrad! So definitely check it out; even if you just want to work for a bit for a special event, this is a place to look into!
Volunteering is a great way to build a resume, benefit the free world, and have some fun, too! You can’t necessarily study all day, we get that, so why not use that procrastinating time, instead of posting on your blog, helping out your community? You’ll leave feeling better about yourself and refreshed from academia, if only for an hour or two. So get ready to stick your nose in those books, but don’t forget about all the good you can do around you to make an impact. Your time is more effective and more influential that you’d think.