All About Volunteering in SLO

Lack of Time or Lack of Motivation?

I just don’t have time,” was the common response when I asked students why they don’t volunteer. “I’ve just never gotten around it,” explained Kaitlyn Friedel, a graphic communications major.

Anthony Agius, computer engineering major explained, “I would like to get more involved with volunteering in the community but with my class work I never really have any free time.”

After hearing the same excuse again and again, I decided to dig a little deeper. Being a student myself, I can relate to being overwhelmed with school and extracurricular activities. But what about that Saturday morning spent oversleeping? What about the free Friday afternoon spent sleeping?

I don’t feel like the community needs me to do anything,” admitted Agius after some prompting, “You’re not recognized for it. You’re giving a lot of time and not getting any recognition for it, why bother?”

Jordan Phelps, a business major continued Agius’ train of thought: “It’s hard to explain…I just know that other people will. I have no real motivation.”

The Need

The Boys and Girls Club of South San Luis Obispo County works with hundreds of kids a day.

The San Luis Obispo Chapter of the American Red Cross provides emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo feeds over 40,000 people a year.

The AIDS Support Network of San Luis Obispo has been providing meals, transportation, and companionship to HIV positive community members for 25 years.

The Prado Day Center serves around 100 homeless people each day, and the Maxine Lewis Night Shelter  provides beds to around 50 people each night.

The need is there. The students are not.

A Volunteer’s Perspective

Sarah McCutcheon, a senior environmental management and protection major is a director coordinator for student community services. She has been helping with the Poly Paws since her freshman year, and now manages the Poly Paws and Raise the Respect programs.


Beach clean ups are a popular event for large groups of volunteers.

“I think students should volunteer because it helps the community that they are living in for four years,” said MucCutcheon, “A lot of the organizations around this community have these great needs that they need to meet, but they can’t afford paid workers so they need the help.” She also shared the statistic that for every hour of volunteering, the community partner being assisted saves 22 dollars.

After being told that some students don’t see that there is a need to volunteer, she replied: “There is definitely a need. It might not be obvious or right in front of your face, but it’s there.”

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with volunteering to make you feel good about yourself either. You’re helping someone else, so you can also benefit from that. You shouldn’t fill your life with just school. It feels good to help people (and animals, and the environment), that can’t help themselves,” she added.

She explained that most volunteers come from fraternities and sororities, who have mandatory community service hours to complete. “I think that mandatory community service isn’t always bad thing. A lot of people don’t take the first step and do it on their own. If they are required for a church group, classes, or fraternities and sororities, it provides that spark that some people need.”

True or False

“To volunteer at Cal Poly, you have to be able to devote a large amount of time to the program.”

False: MucCutcheon explained that students don’t need to have a large amount of free time to volunteer: “I think the misconception may be that once you’re part of the program that you have to go to all their volunteer events, but really it’s up to you to volunteer how much or how little you want. It’s not like this rigid time commitment that you have to do.”

“The Community Center doesn’t have any volunteer options that I would be interested in.”

False: The Community Center has nine different volunteer programs (see below), providing more students with the opportunity to volunteer for something they are passionate about.

“I have no reason to volunteer – there is no incentive.”

False: A little known fact about student volunteering is that if a student completes 150 hours, the school will note it on their official transcript. “It’s really great because employers do like to see that, they like to see that you’re not just focusing on school – that you can excel in school and have time to help out the community,” said McCutcheon. To find out more about transcript notation, click here (

The Nine Volunteer Programs of Student Community Services:

  • Senior Services: The Senior Services program organizes events in which students can interact with senior citizens around the community. These events include game nights, pumpkin carving, and holiday dances. Click here for more information.
  • Best Friends: This program emphasizes interactions between students and mentally disabled community members. This year they are planning on working with the Special Olympis and United Cerebral Palsy. Click here for more information.
  • Poly Paws: The Poly Paws program works with the Cal Poly Cat Program, as well as Woods Humane Societies. The cat shelter on campus hosts movie nights throughout the year to raise awareness. Click here for more information.
  • LOOK: The Language Outreach Opportunities for Kids program members are bilingual, and help teach children throughout the community different languages, as well as teach them about different cultures. Click here for more information.
  • Beyond Shelter: This program works with the homeless population in San Luis Obispo. They help prepare and serve meals, as well as do art projects with the homeless children. Click here for more information.
  • Environmental Council: The most common events put on by this program are the beach clean ups, but they also help organize tree planting events, and Earth Day activities. Click here for more information.
  • Youth Programs: Youth Programs provide students the opportunity to be role models to kids in the community – particular foster children or those from low-income families. They do tutoring, crafts, and often work with the Boys and Girls Club in various other activities. Click here for more information.
  • Students for Health and Well Being: This program deals with health related issues. They advocate and promote healthy living, and organize blood drives and healthy living education. Click here for more information.
  • Raise the Respect: This program promotes world peace and human rights through workshops and other awareness activities. Click here for more information.

To fill out a volunteer interest form, click here!

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