Volunteering in the sun

Alex Watson, Staff Writer

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During the school year, students face mountains of exams and assignments, but once summer comes, their schedules are suddenly free. Local Austin organizations allow students to use this time to make a difference and earn volunteer hours. Five summer volunteer opportunities for students are: the Thinkery, Austin Pets Alive, Urban Roots, Keep Austin Beautiful, and Austin Public Library.

The Thinkery is a children’s museum with interactive exhibits meant to get kids interested in science and engineering. Volunteers help kids with the activities, and they are given additional opportunities the longer they volunteer. The Thinkery allows volunteers to pick shifts that fit their schedules, so students still have time to enjoy themselves during the summer. Students can apply through the website, and after completing their training, they become a volunteer.

Another option for students is Austin Pets Alive, a no-kill animal shelter with several different locations in the Austin area. Volunteers can walk dogs in the mornings and evenings, play outside with the animals, and make sure they are comfortable in their kennels by petting and sitting with them. Cherie Mueller said she volunteers there about three times a week and that it is a wonderful experience, especially for someone who loves animals.

“You get to watch pets go from just getting to know you to feeling comfortable walking with you and letting you pet them,” Mueller said. “It’s kind of the progression that’s the fun.”

Students can also work at Urban Roots, a farm where volunteers grow fruits and vegetables to learn the value of hard work. Although they produce food, the real goal of Urban Roots is to provide volunteers with a valuable, unique experience. Freshman Olivia Alejandre said she plans to work there this summer. She also said anyone who enjoys nature would like Urban Roots.

“It’s perfect for someone who is outdoorsy, doesn’t care about getting dirty, will do hard work and really wants to help,” Alejandre said. “You have to really know what you’re doing. It’s really just for the learning experience.”

Keep Austin Beautiful is another volunteer organization that hosts cleanup projects in the Austin area. Some of their upcoming events include tidying up Town Lake and revitalizing run-down areas of the city. Volunteers can participate in these projects throughout the year by registering on the Keep Austin Beautiful website. If they know of an area that could use help, they can also propose a cleanup of their own, and Keep Austin Beautiful will provide the supplies necessary.

Lastly, the Austin Public Library allows students to volunteer at any of the libraries across the city. There are many different tasks volunteers can do, especially at the Central Library. Some help organize books, and others lead crafts and games. Freshman Hanna Lou Rathouz has volunteered at the Central Library in the past. She said volunteers should love books and be able to work with kids. For her, volunteering at the library was a great introduction to the Austin community.

“When I first came to Austin, I visited the library, and it was awesome, so I really wanted to be there,” Rathouz said. “I decided it would be fun, and it would also be a way for me to give back to the community.”