Illustration by Maren Slobody
Illustration by Maren Slobody

Volunteer opportunities are plentiful at UCSC. Slugs that lend a helping hand often get involved with organizations, accumulate brownie points and can even earn credit for courses.

According to a 2011 survey done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29 percent of college students participate in volunteer work. Student interns and workers at the Student Volunteer Center (SVC) aim to change these statistics here at UCSC. Located in the Hahn Student Services building, the SVC helps connect students with over 200 organizations.

Mariah Padilla, a student volunteer and intern for the Student Volunteer Center, said she began volunteering to get in touch with communities on- and off-campus.

“It gets you out of your own mind,” Padilla said. “It makes you realize that other people have problems too so you don’t have time to complain about your own problems.”

During Padilla’s first year interning, she has helped the SVC organize and advertise volunteer opportunities like the Community Service Project — a grant that helps fund an individual or group’s volunteering projects.

Fourth-year history and environmental science major Brenda Beltran began working for the SVC during her second year and has since become operations director. Beltran’s interest in volunteering started when she participated in “Alternative Spring Break,” where she helped Habitat for Humanity build homes for families.

“I wanted to do something productive with my time,” Beltran said. “I thought it was a good way for me to learn more about Santa Cruz and to learn how to get around town.”

Will Brotherson, a senior sociology major, works as program director for the SVC. With more than five years volunteering experience as proof, Brotherson feels students have a lot to gain from volunteering.

“The biggest benefit for students is that they’re getting experience not only in their personal lives, but for their resume,” Brotherson said. “You’re getting tangible work experience and you’re also doing something good for your community. It’s a win-win, really.”

UCSC alumnus Randy Colón began volunteering and interning with Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR) while attending UCSC in 2011. After graduating and being promoted from intern to administrative assistant, Colón was hired as an event organizer for SCCCCOR. Recently, Colón organized a Martin Luther King Jr. Day film screening of “The House I Live In” for the organization.

For volunteers like Colón, the experience can provide much more than a promising career. Leading meetings regularly and communicating with coworkers granted Colón with a confident, empowering voice.

“My fellow intern would tell me how she was noticing that I was getting more confident and more comfortable with being able to speak in public.” Colón said. “With a lot of organizing, you have to be able to communicate with each other and get your message across clearly.”

Volunteering helps students who are in a “catch-22” situation in which they need employment experience to gain employment in the first place. Second-year sociology major and student volunteer Sara Zepeda said students are often blinded by the time that has to be put into volunteering, and said on-campus resources like the Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) office can help students balance their schoolwork with the amount of time volunteering requires.

“They helped me find the time I needed,” Zepeda said. “I realized that there was more to school than just academia. I’m in school to make my communities better, so why not do that while I’m in school?”

With over 250 registered organizations on the Student Volunteer Center’s website, finding the right organization is easy. Organizations such as The American Red Cross, Homeless Garden Project and Santa Cruz County Animal Services can always use a helping hand.

 

UCSC students that are interested in volunteering and getting involved with the Santa Cruz community can visit the SVC at Hahn Student Services building, room 245, or online at www2.ucsc.edu/svc/index.php. More informtion on the Educational Opportunity Programs can be found online at www.eop.ucsc.edu/.