Does volunteering have a positive impact on volunteers themselves? Numerous health research studies have given more and more weight to the beneficial effects of volunteering on mental and physical health, life satisfaction, social well-being and depression. How do Cambridge School Volunteers perceive their experience?
CSV’s volunteers range from engineers, young professionals, retired teachers, and STEM doctoral candidates to members of local undergraduate athletic teams and CPS parents. They spend their time in the Cambridge Public Schools broadening student experiences, enabling teachers to better personalize instruction, strengthening school communities. They also report experiencing personal growth.
Several CSV volunteers describe how dynamic it feels to switch between their everyday roles into a tutoring role, where they strive to remember what it was like to be the age of the child they are working with. One CSV volunteer, Eric, reported that “talking with a middle schooler every week really broadens my world view,” making him think outside of the “research bubble” that often surrounds him.
Volunteers find different ways to connect with their students. Some connect through common interests like athletics. In one particular program, volunteers relate through drawing. Alexis, a three-year volunteer in CSV’s Art and Science in One Program, says students are often better observers of the outdoor world. While working on a nature journaling exercise, “one student was looking closely at a clump of violets growing and went so far as to almost dissect one of the flowers to see all the parts and describe them in her journal. We learned about that plant together, in a way I probably wouldn’t have on my own.”
One volunteer reports how difficult it was stay on task, as a child. Seeing their student make the same mistakes they had made as a young student is frustrating, but also helps build understanding between the two of them and helps guide personal reflections and growth.
Why choose to volunteer in a public school?
“I was motivated to volunteer and then return because I want to contribute something positive to the neighborhood where I live, and I think working with kids is one of the most rewarding ways to do this” – Pete, fifth-year CSV volunteer
“The reason I returned as a volunteer is the gratification that I get out of tutoring, and the rare sense that I’m doing something that truly matters” – Harry, second-year CSV volunteer
“I love being outside with kids and helping them to cultivate and follow their own curiosity and connection with nature. The training and supports for volunteers are top-notch, and it’s nice to meet kindred spirits among the fellow volunteers.” – Alexis, third-year CSV volunteer
Amanda Kimball is an intern with Cambridge School Volunteers while she completes her Masters in Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. While at school, she is exploring how education research impacts the policy sector and how to create communities of change. Prior to starting grad school, she served with Peace Corps Namibia as a Health Volunteer, teaching children positive life skills and about HIV.