Volunteers Use Summer to Serve Others Locally, Abroad


Malena Heineman, Student Life Editor

Summer can be a time to destress and enjoy long, hot days free of homework. This time allows students to volunteer, which has now become an advantage in college applications and raises awareness of social issues in the local community and abroad. For many LASA students, volunteering presents a way to become more involved in the community and use free time in a productive way.

Sophomore Jasmine Gokingco spent her time over the summer volunteering with the Thinkery Children’s Center, a STEM based museum in the Mueller area of Austin. The Thinkery employs teenagers from ages 13-18 to work at the museum as either Counselors in Training (CITs) or VolunTeens. Gokingco has volunteered since she was a freshman and advanced to the VolunTeen position this summer.

“I’m a VolunTeen at the moment, so that includes doing gallery shifts and special events at the museum,” Gokingco said. “During these shifts, I’m responsible for keeping gallery spaces as clean as possible, helping visitors and engaging with kids. At the Thinkery, I’m able to see kids genuinely having fun with STEM topics at the museum and the joy they get when they finally figure something out.”

According to senior Ben Appel, volunteering is a key part of being a well rounded student and can help students gain social skills and be a part of the community. As the president of LASA’s chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS), Appel said that the organization requires its members to log a certain amount of volunteering hours per semester.

“Service is one of the values at the very core of NHS,” Appel said. “It’s one of the four pillars of the program along with scholarship, leadership and character. Members definitely benefit from completing service hours. They make connections in their community, and they start to see themselves as part of the solution.”

Some students volunteer internationally as a part of language immersion programs. These are a popular way for students to experience another culture, learn skills about the language they are taking and having an opportunity to volunteer.

Sophomore Chloe Pence took part in a trip in Latin America this summer through the non-profit organization Amigos de Las Americas. She worked on community development projects and was able to practice her Spanish speaking.

“As a volunteer, you live with a host family and work on a project specific to their community while promoting important topics, such as gender equality, with the youth and children,” Pence said. “I decided to go because I wanted to improve my Spanish and enhance my leadership skills while also learning about their culture and customs. The main thing was that Amigos was providing a truly authentic experience.”

Although volunteer hours prove useful for college applications and resumes, the lessons that they teach students are much more important, according to Appel. He said that community service can bring people together through a common goal.

“Volunteering is important for everyone and helps students look beyond immediate demands and … get some perspective about other kinds of challenges and how we can go about helping,” Appel said. “It creates shared experiences and common purpose.”