Give back to the community while you learn

 Start with service
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  September 16, 2013

Common wisdom suggests that by helping others, you help yourself. In fact, studies have shown that volunteering in the community has positive effects on both academic achievement and personal success. So in between studying and partying, may we recommend a little do-gooding?

To aid in your quest for extra credit, we paired six University of Southern Maine majors with six relevant local volunteer opportunities; go to Volunteer Maine (volunteermaine.org) to find many more organizations looking for helpers.

If your major is English
Volunteer at The Telling Room
Solidify your own reading and writing skills by helping teach others. Volunteers at this non-profit literacy and creative writing center do it all, from assisting with after-school workshops and field trips to providing one-on-one mentoring to helping at Telling Room public events. Email newsletters let prospective volunteers know what gigs are available and when; a background check is required. Visit tellingroom.org to fill out an application.

If your major is Tourism and Hospitality
Volunteer at Preble Street
Learn to be a good host while helping guests in real need. Preble Street programs address everything from hunger to homelessness to unemployment, though most of the volunteer opportunities at this downtown service hub have to do with food. Sign up to help prepare, serve, and clean up after three meals a day at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen, the Teen Center, or the Florence House; or help organize and distribute food donations at the Food Pantry on Thursdays. Fill out the online form at preblestreet.org.

If your major is Nursing
Volunteer at Maine Medical Center
Familiarize yourself with the inner workings of a big teaching hospital. Northern New England’s largest hospital relies on hundreds of volunteers in more than 75 areas and departments, including the Geriatric Center, Radiation Therapy, and the Book Cart. This is not for the casual Samaritan; volunteers 18 and older must submit to a background check and agree to working three to four hours a week for at least six months. To learn more, call 207.662.2205 or visit mmc.org.

If your major is Education
Volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters
Practice your one-on-one teaching and leadership skills, just by being you. Kids all around Southern Maine have benefited from this program, which matches adult volunteers with children in need of a friend and a mentor. “Bigs” and “Littles” do all sorts of activities together — sports, video games, going for ice cream — with the simple goal of making a child smile. BBBS volunteers must able to commit to spending three to five hours per week for one year with their little bro or sis. Start the process at somebigs.org or call 207.773.KIDS.

If your major is Recreation and Leisure Studies
Volunteer at Portland Trails
Get your hands dirty in the name of outdoor recreation. If you’re interested in promoting wellness while enjoying Portland’s natural beauty, check out Portland Trails, which creates and maintains a 50-mile network of trails both on and off the peninsula (as well as across the bridge in SoPo). They’re always looking for trail workers as well as volunteers to help out at events like the annual late-September Trail to Ale 10K. Get in touch at trails.org.

If your major is Political Science
Volunteer at Adopt-A-Stop
Start your career by performing true street-level public service. Able-bodied volunteers are needed each winter to help keep the 1000 bus stops in Portland and South Portland free from snow and ice — which, in turn, makes eco-friendly bus-ridership more attractive. Volunteers are assigned a specific stop to babysit over the course of a one-year commitment, and are provided with shovels and safety vests where needed. If you’d rather a little less responsibility, consider applying as a “backup” volunteer, who serve on an as-needed (and when-available) basis. Volunteer release form available at adopt-a-stop.org; for more information call volunteer manager Robert Wagner at 207.408.4404.

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