Flashback to three months ago, before I began considering the ways in which I could engage myself philanthropically, my day-to-day seemed… okay. Just, okay. Pretty blah, if I’m being honest. But my life was hardly lacking in scheduled commitments. Some days felt insurmountable, and my reward for scaling to the top didn’t leave me feeling purposeful. Cue thoughts of, “Hmm… How can my life feel more purposeful? How can I get in touch with my beliefs and values while nurturing a sense of civic engagement? Where do I even begin?!” Navigating the sometimes murky waters of where to start when deciding how to engage in social change, with so many deserving organizations in the Portland area alone, is challenging, and often leads to a sense of decision fatigue and discouragement. I narrowed in on Saturday Academy, whose mission to serve and engage the curiosity of students with incredible learning opportunities really resonated with me. I’m not here to say that Saturday Academy is any more deserving than the myriad Portland nonprofits, but rather to share my Top Three Reasons to Volunteer with Saturday Academy. Here we go:
Volunteering with Saturday Academy is truly a hands-on experience. As a volunteer, I have been given the opportunity to don a variety of different “hats”, from feeling like a kid again while sorting Legos from Saturday Academy’s Lego Robotics classes, to feeling very adult, as I acted as a resource for students who have expressed interest in Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program, which links high school students with mentors and summer internships that create a profound impact on the student’s exposure to potential STEM-related career fields. My work at Saturday Academy has felt less clerical or busy, and more tangibly impactful through my in-depth, hands-on involvement.
Volunteering with Saturday Academy allows for you to actually witness the change you are effecting. Whether it be in conversation with students who are interested in Saturday Academy’s offerings or aiding with informational sessions that Saturday Academy hosts for students interested in the ASE program, seeing how the organization links students with exceptional opportunities inspired me to put in my best work as a volunteer. The fruits of my efforts had a linear impact on the students that Saturday Academy serves, which rendered a sense of purpose in what I was doing. Hooray for this cycle of positive impact!
Volunteering with Saturday Academy connected me to the ever-inspiring and persevering Saturday Academy staff. Hey, there are perks to volunteering outside of your civic engagement! Of course, the philanthropy and its impact are the main focus, but the potential for growth is entirely mutual. Being trained by and working alongside the SA staff taught me little things, like how to use new campaign software and have confidence on the phone, as well as big things, like how to be sharp, on my toes, compassionate, and mission-focused. A particularly inspiring moment was when assisting Libby Van Vleet, the ASE program coordinator, at an informational session for students interested in the ASE summer program, where nearly 100 students and parents showed up, enthused to learn more. Witnessing how individual efforts at Saturday Academy relate to a collective impact on our community was very cool.
I can’t reiterate enough the value in volunteering within the Portland community, and particularly the joy I found in my time volunteering with Saturday Academy. A sense of purpose and desire to effect social change has been renewed and my life is all the richer for it.