Volunteer and Service-learning Opportunities
There are more than 260 community service programs administered by USC and affiliated institutions which serve more than 600,000 persons and provide volunteer opportunities for more than 22,000 USC students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends each year. Volunteers contribute more than 900,000 volunteer hours annually. Information about these community service programs and data about the USC neighborhoods is available online at communities.usc.edu.
The following programs are a sampling of the service programs which you can join. There are many other student organizations that offer community service opportunities. See the complete list of student organizations for other possibilities. For additional information, refer to the USC Volunteer Center section.
A Community Place
University Religious Center 103
A Community Place (ACP) is a student-run center that serves the homeless, working poor, seniors and children by providing healthy bag lunches, bus tokens for appointments and referrals to jobs, health centers, shelters and food or clothing distributors. ACP is open three times a week and is located in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (3651 S. Vermont Ave.), across from USC Gate 5.
Alpha Phi Omega
Since its introduction to USC in 1934, Alpha Phi Omega (APO) has provided hundreds of USC students with an avenue for organizing service programs, immediate opportunities to lead within the organization, and events and activities to bring its members together. APO recently volunteered at the AIDS Walk, Habitat for Humanity, community enrichment, Senior Social and the Union Rescue Mission, among other projects. APO is a coed service fraternity open to all current students – greek or non-greek, undergraduate or graduate.
Best Buddies is a non-profit international organization that strives to enhance the lives of people who have intellectual disabilities through one-to-one friendships and integrated employment. The USC chapter of Best Buddies is paired with students from Lanterman High School, and students make friendships that last a lifetime.
USC Circle K
USC Circle K blends community service and leadership training with the opportunity to meet other college students around the world, promoting the three tenets of service, leadership and fellowship. You may participate in our many events that range from beach clean-ups to reading to kids. As a branch of Kiwanis International, USC Circle K possesses the network capable of sculpting students into leaders.
USC Habitat for Humanity, Campus Chapter
USC Habitat for Humanity is an organized campus chapter of the international organization, which works to provide individual members and other student organizations with the opportunity to participate in this unique service opportunity. Although students may have little or no experience with construction, they are welcomed and trained to be active participants in various aspects of the home-building process.
USC Helenes is an all-female service organization and the official hostesses of the University of Southern California. The women of the USC Helenes have been serving the university and community for the past 92 years. The Helenes work in the greater Los Angeles community, hostess major events of and off campus, and act as one of the university’s premier spirit organizations. For more information on the Helenes, please check out our website: uschelenes.org.
Joint Educational Project
Director: Tammara Anderson
The Joint Educational Project (JEP) offers students a unique opportunity to combine academic course work with the experience found in the ethnically and culturally diverse community surrounding the university. Each year some 1,600 students from approximately 100+ courses receive academic credit for their participation in JEP. An additional 400 students serve as non-credit volunteers and share their time and special talents in the project. As a JEP student, you can choose one of several assignments:
- In local schools, you can tutor and befriend children through the mentors program; aid teachers in the classroom as teacher assistants; help other school administrators; and lead mini-course lessons on subjects from earthquakes to health and nutrition.
- In health clinics, hospitals and the coroner’s office, you can work as a physician’s assistant, patient comforter or translator through the Trojan Health Volunteers Program.
- In other community sites, such as a shelter for battered women and children or a neighborhood tutorial center, students can offer help that enhances current educational arts and sports programs.
JEP assignments last from eight to 10 weeks during the semester and provide excellent career preparation, community service and personal growth opportunities for interested students. JEP houses an America Reads/America Counts program, coined USC Readers PLUS, which hires and places work-study students in five of the USC Family Schools. Readers and math mentors assist neighborhood children with reading and math between eight and 15 hours a week during the academic year and up to 40 hours a week during the summer months. Visit the JEP House at 801 W. 34th St., across from Taper Hall.
Jumpstart is a national early education organization that recruits and trains college students and community volunteers to work with preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. Through a proven curriculum, these children develop the language and literacy skills they need to be ready for school, setting them on a path to close the achievement gap before it is too late.
Jumpstart corps members have the opportunity to inspire young children to learn, serve in a local community, work on a team and build professional skills. Corps members complete 300 hours of service during the school year at 8-12 hours per week.
Students in Jumpstart are eligible to earn an AmeriCorps Education award of up to $1,175 after completing their term of service. In addition, students may earn their work study award through Jumpstart.
Norman Topping Student Aid Fund
The Norman Topping Student Aid Fund (NTSAF) provides scholarships for incoming freshmen, transfer and graduate students with high financial need and strong community awareness. The scholarship is renewable during the student’s tenure at USC. Applicants residing in areas surrounding the University Park and Health Science campuses, in addition to first-generation college students, are given primary consideration in the selection process. Please note that the scholarship is not limited to these populations.
NTSAF is the only student-initiated, student-funded, primarily student-administered scholarship in the nation. Current students can get involved through the NTSAF Governing Board, which selects applicants and sets policy for the fund. Members of the Governing Board also assist with recruitment, outreach and event planning. The Governing Board works closely with the Topping Scholars and university staff and faculty.
For more information about getting involved, please contact the NTSAF office.
Peer Health Educators
Office for Wellness and Health Promotion
Health Promotion and Prevention Services
(213) 740-HPPS (4777)
In late September to early October, Wellness and Health Promotion selects 15 to 25 students to volunteer as Peer Health Educators (PHEs). PHEs are trained in brief motivational interviewing and as peer opinion leaders. The PHEs staff the Resource Rooms in Student Health Center 206 and Tutor Campus Center 427, provide Anonymous OraQuick Rapid HIV Testing, and build wellness in their peer student communities. Applications are due on the last day of October. Those selected complete 32 hours of training and commit to volunteering two hours a week for one year.
If you are interested in becoming a PHE, call (213) 740-4777 for more information or to request an application.
Spirits in Action
Spirits in Action brings more than 300 athletes with physical and mental disabilities to USC every spring to participate in a day of athletics and fun. The group visits a nearby school each semester to play games with disabled students.
Trojan Kids Camp
This program is sponsored by Recreational Sports. Now in its 46th year, Trojan Kids Camp (formerly called the National Youth Sports Program) continues to meet the needs of USC community youth. The program provides summer experiences in sports instruction, fitness, nutrition, citizenship and sportsmanship for economically disadvantaged children ages 9 to 15 years.
Paid staff positions are available and the application process begins in early April. Applications and information for staff and participants are available (in both English and Spanish) at the Lyon Center or online at usc.edu/recsports.
USC Troy Camp is a student-run philanthropic organization committed to promoting higher education through long-term developmental and academic mentorship for the underserved youth in the USC community. All programs, including a week of summer camp, are provided at no cost to the children.
USC Volunteer Center
The USC Volunteer Center (UVC) supports community service efforts throughout the USC community. Each year, the UVC organizes monthly campus-wide community service days, as well as identifies volunteer opportunities for students, faculty and staff. The UVC also houses an extensive online database of more than 300 service agencies that provide volunteer opportunities to the USC family. Programs include Alternative Spring and Winter Breaks and monthly Friends and Neighbors Service Days. For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit the UVC Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are numerous student service groups that provide assistance to the surrounding community as well as on campus. For information on these groups, refer to the description in this section or visit the UVC or Office of Campus Activities (Tutor Campus Center 330).
Funding for Community Service
If you are a member of a student group that would like to conduct a hands-on community service project, your group may apply for funding through the Undergraduate Student Government Philanthropy Fund. For more information, visit the Office of Campus Activities Website at usc.edu/ca.
Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE)
WYSE is a mentorship program that provides middle school girls at four local middle schools with the resources and support necessary to make informed decisions about their relationships, sexuality and futures, and to create community change. WYSE mentors facilitate group sessions as well as individually mentor middle school females at one of two local middle schools. WYSE is designed to educate young women and empower them to make healthy decisions on their own. In addition, the organization works to create a cohesive team of mentors that supports one another as they support their mentees.
Youth Exploring Passion (Y.E.P.)
Youth Exploring Passion (Y.E.P.) is a student organization for both undergraduate and graduate USC women. Y.E.P. is dedicated to providing academic and peer mentoring to pregnant and parenting teen girls attending Thomas Riley High School in the Watts area of South Los Angeles. Each USC mentor shares a one-on-one relationship with a mentee and creates a mentoring bond with her through attending weekly workshops at Thomas Riley High School and bimonthly outings to explore the dynamic Los Angeles area and expose each mentee to new educational, social, professional and cultural opportunities.