When an academic mentor enters a Boston Public Schools classroom to work with a struggling student, the extra attention from a caring adult can have a huge influence on the student’s life. While assisting a student with reading, writing or math, an academic mentor also forms a bond with the student; often helping them make important decisions regarding study habits, classroom behavior, school choice and even career paths. But every now and then, a role reversal can occur and the student actually helps the mentor decide what to be when they grow up.

College student Michael Macchi volunteering in a classroom at the Hennigan School in Jamacia Plain

Michael Macchi volunteering in a classroom at the Hennigan School in Jamaica Plain

One-third of the volunteers who are matched with K-12 students are also students themselves, studying at the many college campuses across the Boston area. Volunteering with Boston Partners in Education offers college students a chance to help young learners in a classroom setting, while discovering their own civic abilities and potential career possibilities. The experience that college students have as volunteer academic mentors can be life changing.

Meet Rafael Melendez, a Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) student, graduate of the Boston Public Schools and member of the East Boston community. This past spring, Rafael volunteered with Boston Partners and was matched with students in a kindergarten class at the Adams Elementary School in East Boston.“I never would have thought about teaching as a career, but my experience with Boston Partners showed me that I should consider becoming a teacher,” Melendez said.

At first, Rafael committed to volunteering in the classroom for Boston Partners’ standard requirement– one day a week for one hour. However, after a week or so, he committed to being there for two hours, three times a week. His teacher made it clear that she needed the assistance in the classroom, and she appreciated his support of different groups of students in reading and math.

Rafael’s motivation for volunteering was not only to serve his own community, but to stretch his imagination on how people volunteer.

“I always thought volunteering involved cleaning up places, that’s good and all, but if I’m going to give my time, I need something more,” Melendez said.

Rafael continued to explain that he didn’t think it would be so easy to become a volunteer. He shared that Boston Partners’ process was straightforward and clear and prepared him to support students in a classroom setting.

Megan Daly has used her experience as a Boston Partners volunteer to help her launch a teaching career.

Megan Daly used her experience as a Boston Partners volunteer to help her launch a teaching career.

In order to recruit an amazing pool of talented volunteers like Rafael, Boston Partners creates partnerships with several area colleges including BHCC. Through Bunker Hill Community College’s Office of Community Engagement, students learn about the different ways they can volunteer and participate in Service Learning projects. The Office provides multiple pathways for students to become responsible and active members of their communities.

For example, BHCC students work with community-based organizations as assigned through their courses, contemplate societal ethical issues with each other on campus, and simply volunteer to raise awareness of the aspirations of the community. BHCC students are uniquely positioned to impact the community because they live and work in the neighborhoods they serve. In this spirit, the College seeks to develop reciprocal relationships with community partners.

Rafael’s life-changing experience is not uncommon in the volunteer world. So what do college students who volunteer say to other students who are thinking about volunteering? The key is to find an organization that interests you, but an opportunity that’s also new, challenging and even slightly uncomfortable.

”I learned through this experience that I really enjoy volunteering and got a lot out of it,” Rafael said.

Get started on your journey today by accessing our online application form and discover what volunteering helps you learn about yourself.