Did you know that more than 23,000 NYC youth are homeless at the moment? And that’s not to mention the thousands of others who are in need of tutoring, employment guidance, art inspiration, safe places to go after school and other essential services. Do your part to help out our city’s youngsters by choosing to volunteer with children at these ace nonprofits helping them with everything from fitness classes to writing their own hip-hop music.
RECOMMENDED: Where to volunteer in NYC
10 youth-assisting organizations
The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. store is the front for this Park Slope writing center. It’s modeled after San Francisco’s 826 Valencia, which was founded by author Dave Eggers in 2002. Behind a secret door, after-school tutors volunteer once a week to provide homework help and lead workshops on kid-friendly topics like writing scary stories. Volunteers are also needed to staff the shop: While spreading the word about 826NYC’s mission, you’ll also be helping customers with interactive displays like the astounding cape-tester (in which comic-book garb is put to the test by forceful gusts from industrial-size fans). 372 Fifth Ave between 5th and 6th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-499-9884, 826nyc.org)
Since 1991, Art Start has garnered national recognition and celebrity attention (from luminaries such as Russell Simmons and Oprah) for its programs, which give homeless youths and at-risk teens opportunities to build confidence through artistic expression. “It’s about allowing each student to find their voice,” says executive director Johanna De Los Santos. Volunteers work with young kids and teenagers on a variety of projects, including creating life-size self-portraits, writing hip-hop lyrics and recording songs. Supporters can also make monthly donations or submit photos and testimonials about the ways they’ve implemented creative problem-solving in their everyday lives. 526 West 26th St, Suite 501 (212-460-0019, art-start.org)
Each Sunday, volunteers—and tweens and teens looking to rawk—take over Bushwick DIY fave Silent Barn for rehearsal sessions. The six-week course ends with a big show and even a recording session in a pro studio. The kids are alright indeed. 603 Bushwick Ave, Brooklyn (bushwickschoolformusic.org)
Professional female writers can lend their time to this nonprofit, which helps young women build confidence, as well as their writing portfolios. Mentors work directly with protégés to offer guidance and advice, and pieces written by mentees may be featured during Chapters, GWN’s monthly reading series, or in the organization’s annual anthology. If you aren’t able to dedicate the time to be a mentor—or don’t make the cut, as only a third of applicants are accepted into the program—you can also get involved by joining a committee or providing digital-media support. 247 W 37th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, suite 1800 (212-336-9330, girlswritenow.org)
If math and literacy comes easily to you, consider devoting some time to this Upper West Side organization. Volunteers primarily work with elementary-school students, pairing up with kids who have fallen behind in their regular curriculums. Students might need help with activities or assignments following an after-school lesson presented by a JCC reading specialist or math teacher. Programming is available for a range of grade levels (K–12), and most volunteer positions require a time commitment of at least 45 minutes per week. Volunteer locations vary; visit jccmanhattan.org for program details.
Volunteers for this career-development program work with low-income, first-generation college students to build their career skills. There are several levels of commitment: Mentor Coaches collaborate one-on-one with students on projects like résumé-writing and interviewing, while Career Coaches serve on workshop panels, fill in for Mentor Coaches or give informational interviews. If you have more than 15 years of professional experience in your field, you can apply to be a Life Coach—they pitch in for a single session or on a periodic basis, sharing their advanced knowledge with larger groups. 589 Eighth Ave between 38th and 39th Sts (212-571-0202, newyorkneedsyou.org)
This seven-year-old youth development organization makes sure that kids who participate in the program are kicking butt both on the soccer field and in the classroom. Volunteer tutors spend at least one afternoon per week working with players on homework, plus math and literacy activities; meanwhile, recreational and travel-league coaches develop players’ soccer skills while weaving in lessons about teamwork and leadership. Volunteers for older age groups should have some knowledge of the sport, but more importantly, SBU looks for people who are enthusiastic and encouraging. 199 Lincoln Ave between 136th and 137th Sts, No. 319, Bronx (718-404-9281, southbronxunited.org)