Get Involved and Build Experiences: 7 Volunteer Opportunities for Students Interested in Careers in Education and Human Services

Volunteering can be an enriching and fulfilling opportunity for students looking to strengthen their skillset and build experience in their desired career field. It demonstrates that a student is caring, committed to making a change in the world, and is going above and beyond to get involved. Students interested in education and human services careers have access to a wide variety of experiences conveniently located in the Binghamton area that they can participate in during the academic year. Here are just a few of the many volunteer opportunities currently available. To find out more information about these opportunities and others, visit the Center for Civic Engagement!

  • Volunteer at local schools

There are a variety of local schools looking for volunteers and student aides to assist with students’ learning needs, such as Owego Free Academy and Binghamton High School. Additionally, many school professionals may be willing to have college students shadow them to see firsthand what a day is like working in a school setting. Volunteers can help teachers around the classroom, work with students one-on-one, or help with special events and programs. Student volunteers can make connections with teachers and those in Binghamton’s education program may even find a placement for student teaching through their volunteer work. It is also beneficial to learn techniques for classroom management, conflict resolution, and lesson planning.

  • Help refugees learn English

The American Civic Association (ACA) is responsible for helping immigrants and refugees adjust to life in the United States while maintaining their cultural identity. It can help with housing, literacy, and job opportunities. The ACA is looking for volunteers to help their clients transition into life in the U.S., particularly with literacy. If you are fluent in a language beyond English, consider reaching out to the ACA to see if you can make a difference by teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) or assisting with interpretation and translation. This is a valuable experience for students studying a language at Binghamton and would also be useful for those looking to enter a helping profession such as teaching or non-profit work.

  • Provide support for people struggling with mental illness

Mental healthcare facilities and nonprofits dedicated to supporting individuals with mental illness are frequently in need of volunteers who can help provide support and offer assistance to this population in need. Organizations such as the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier (MHAST) and the Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) offer volunteer opportunities for tasks such as:

  • responding to a 24-hour crisis line
  • serving as an advocate for victims at local hospitals
  • joining a compeer program to promote friendship, confidence, and self-reliance in individuals with a mental health diagnosis

If you are a social work, human development, or psychology major, you may want to demonstrate your compassion, empathy, and listening skills to make a difference in the lives of others, build your skillset, and connect with potential employers for post-graduate opportunities.

  • Become a mentor for at-risk children

Binghamton City School District is “recruiting caring individuals to become a positive role model for one student, one hour a week in the school, to develop their social and emotional well-being,” according to its website. Undergraduate and graduate students at Binghamton University who are looking to enter the education field may be interested in applying. They can help students become better prepared for the future both socially and academically by meeting with them for a few hours a week. There are also other schools in Broome County that partner with Binghamton University to provide elementary students with a mentor as a positive role model. You never know how many lives you are touching through these programs and the impact you are having in the greater Binghamton community. 

  • Educate the community about local history and museums

Have an interest in local history, art, and culture? Do you want to share your passion with others? Consider volunteering at one of the many museums in Binghamton, such as the Roberson Museum and the Phelps Mansion Museum, which are focused on preserving Binghamton’s rich history through education initiatives and rotating exhibits. One opportunity at the Phelps Mansion Museum is to be a docent, a position that entails leading tours of the mansion at special events and programs. Likewise, the Roberson is looking for volunteers for its events and programs on Saturdays. If you are passionate about education and the arts, either of these positions would be a fantastic way to get involved with the community and strengthen transferable skills such as public speaking and event coordination. 

  • Spend time at a senior living facility

Nursing homes across Broome County are in need of volunteers to assist with programming to provide engaging, stimulating activities for residents. For example, one local senior center is looking for “friendly visitors” for their residents to engage in social activities such as games and crafts. This is a wonderful opportunity to build interpersonal communication skills, gain event planning experience, and enhance the lives of residents.

  • Support children with disabilities 

For students looking to build their experiences in occupational therapy or educational settings, volunteering at a local organization for children with disabilities is a wonderful way to get involved and build firsthand experience. One organization is Gigi’s Playhouse of the Southern Tier, which is dedicated to providing advocacy and education for individuals with Down Syndrome, their families, and their communities. Gigi’s Playhouse is looking for volunteers to lead theme-based programs that can help with fine motor skills, oral motor activities, movement, singing, and basic sign language. Students who want to work with children or hope to be clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, or other related careers would benefit from joining this volunteer program.

Consider taking part in a volunteer opportunity while at Binghamton- many opportunities do not have a large time commitment and allow you to see if a particular career is a good fit for you. Additionally, volunteering not only supports the community but also provides a fulfilling learning experience for everyone involved. 

If you are seeking to get involved in the greater Binghamton community and build your skillset and network, the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) is a fantastic resource and point of contact for students. The CCE’s Community Opportunities Directory provides a list of available organizations (in Broome County and elsewhere) that are looking for volunteers. Students can filter the search tool by area of interest (education, environmental issues, etc.) as well as the type of project (service, group project, etc.) to help them find the perfect opportunity. Once students find a good match, they can reach out to the organization using the provided contact information to find out more details and get started.

Lastly, for assistance adding a volunteer experience to your resume or a personal statement, visit the Fleishman Center and meet with a career consultant!

By Valerie Stracquadanio
Valerie Stracquadanio