When students reach college, community service can take on a pertinent and influential scope; opportunities become adventures and students can truly make a difference.
“Community service doesn’t have to match the grade school stereotype of a disciplinary activity,” Laurel Reisman, a San Diego State graduate and volunteer at the California Wolf Center, said. “There are a lot of ways to volunteer that involve working outside — building communities or saving endangered species.”
The CWC offers one of the most adventurous volunteer programs in San Diego. Located at the end of a dusty mountain road off of the Sunrise Highway in Julian, volunteers at this nonprofit educational facility specialize in promoting wildlife awareness through teaching the public about its pack of endangered Mexican and Alaskan gray wolves.
Students can volunteer at the center to work hands-on with wild wolves and help preserve the dying breed’s population.
“I love working with the wolves,” Reisman said. “Working with animals in their natural state is an amazing experience … But (volunteers) are cat lovers, and you can volunteer for that as well, believe it or not.”
Reisman is referring to Lions Tigers & Bears, a nonprofit rescue facility for exotic animals. This phenomenal service allows trained volunteers to brush and care for, well, lions, tigers and bears, among other exotic animals. The facility’s location in the hills of Alpine offers students this extraordinary volunteer experience less than 25 miles from campus.
Human children are among the wildest of animals, and working with them rewards the Toys “R” Us kid in anyone. Outdoor Outreach is a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that relies on volunteers to educate and empower underprivileged youth with outdoor programs. Volunteers guide surf trips, lead rock climbing expeditions and plan snowboarding excursions with children who typically do not have the opportunity to experience these outings.
For the dedicated outdoorsman and athlete, volunteering with the Mountain Bike Assistance Unit at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park allows adventuresome trail-riding opportunities in some of San Diego’s most awesome backcountry.
“The park is minimally staffed due to the State of California budget cuts,” Michael Curtis, leader of the Mountain Bike Assistance Unit at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, said. “We patrol the trails to assist visitors and alert the park staff of dangerous conditions, trails needing repair, tree removal, etc.”
Volunteer work has personal benefits that extend beyond the experience and character the practice builds. According to an evaluation of more than 30 studies from the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteer work is thought to extend a person’s lifespan by several years. The review also found giving back to the community significantly decreases rates of depression and possibly lowers the risk of disease.
To become involved, visit the volunteer pages on any of the mentioned programs’ websites to sign up.