School's Out for Summer

Be a kid again when you share some time with local youngsters

Remember summer vacation? Take a minute to recall the formless freedom, the sense of possibility, the Slip 'n' Slide. That was nice, huh?

Now you're a boring grown-up and you have to work all year round. Social Security will soon be a memory as sweet and hazy as your long-lost summer break, so we'll probably all be 90 before we can properly enjoy a summer off again.

Luckily, there are scores of youth-oriented nonprofits in San Francisco that can offer any working stiff a chance to reconnect with that summer magic. If you can choke down your jealousy and commit to an afternoon or two a week, you can volunteer with deserving kids on their summer break.

Artsy types needed

City Crossroads is a SOMA-based charity working with the neighborhood's low-income youth. They mostly offer tutoring services and a fun space to hang out and shoot hoops, but Crossroads employee Ann Moberg says, “the kids don't all want to play sports.” The organization is therefore looking for musically inclined volunteers to add some culture to the mix. If you play guitar and would like to teach it to an aspiring shredder or strummer, contact Moberg at Crossroads also has a keyboard, and “a couple kids are waiting in the wings to learn that,” she adds. Volunteers do not have to be religious, but they will have to submit to a background check (standard operating procedure for anyone interested in working with youth).

Long a mecca for lovers of pirates and children's literacy, the literary nonprofit 826 Valencia is always in need of a few good word-nerds to tutor aspiring writers and make corny “arr, matey!” jokes. Volunteers should memorize the introduction to “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and have a shoulder parrot. Just kidding: Volunteers should really love reading and writing and be excited to tutor students in expository writing, creative writing, and/or English as a second language. 826 can use volunteers with varying amounts of free time. “Regular” volunteers commit to three hours of tutoring either every week or every other week; “freestyle” volunteers work on a fill-in basis; and “daytimers” volunteer when those with day jobs can't. Check out for more information and to fill out a pre-interview questionnaire.

If your interest runs toward other forms of artistic expression, the Bay Area Video Coalition, located in the Mission, needs adults with experience in graphic design, music, and video production to offer guidance to youth who've trained at BayVAC and are now working on their own projects. Volunteering can involve instructional work with kids in the classroom or mentoring them in the studio and on the streets. BayVAC also could use academic tutors for its highly devoted students. “[The kids] get really involved in our art stuff,” says BayVAC's Patricia Cogley, “so we need to keep them on track” academically. Contact Cogley at (415) 558-2180 to get involved.

The Mission's Project Spera Inc. offers another opportunity for art persons with a little time and know-how to spare. The organization needs artist-mentors to design unique, art-based field trips around the city for its Global Youth Media and Arts program. Project Spera serves 300 kids (who won't all go on a field trip at once) and is currently focused on a global-scale theme of immigration and identity. If you'd like to put your knowledge of S.F.'s art scene to better use than just cadging free wine and cheese every night, please contact Project Spera's Dana Curran at

Teach a skill, share a passion

Sporty types also have plenty of chances to sweat for a good cause this summer. One especially convenient avenue is through the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. With eight locations around the city, they are in need of playfield volunteers to spend an hour a week dropping some dodgeball and four-square science on the kids. Foosball expertise is also desirable. Ideal volunteers will “thrive on chaos and [won't] mind taking charge” (according to a Web posting). For locations and more details contact Tim Simpson at (415) 445-5482.

For those with slightly more hard-core sporting proclivities, Environmental Traveling Companions provides outdoor education and sporting trips to low-income kids who might not otherwise get to see the great outdoors from aboard a kayak or white-water raft. The program's volunteer guides are given extensive training in first aid/CPR and environmental and diversity awareness, then commit to lead at least four trips per year. Check out or contact Greg Milano (sea kayaking), or Davido Crow at (river rafting).

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Rafael's Trips for Kids Marin offers low-income bike enthusiasts training in bike mechanics, environmental education, and mountain biking excursions. If you're an experienced velorutionary who'd like to lead one of these mountain biking trips in lovely Marin, contact Marilyn Price at (415) 458-2986. Trips for Kids also needs assistance in the bike repair shop — giving gearheads can help kids keep their pint-sized rides in working order.

San Francisco's historic Glide Memorial Church has a mission to serve the children of the Tenderloin, and is committed to exposing these kids to environments and activities outside the TL. This summer, they'll be taking a wide range of awesome field trips, from the cultural (museums) to the culinary (farmers' markets) and the recreational (sailing lessons, ball games). They need volunteers to help guide these trips, on a day-by-day basis. If you and your friends love art, or the Giants, or organic farming, why not spend a day getting some kids psyched on these worthy things, too? Interested parties who sign up to do what they can are always welcome; contact Mickey Williams at (415) 674-6226 for more info.

Finally, the Mercy Family Plaza, a low-income housing complex in the Upper Haight, is looking for anyone with a skill or hobby they feel passionate about and would like to teach to youthful residents one evening a week for four weeks this summer. Whether you're into cooking, chess, photography, badminton, knitting, or computer programming, you'll have a great opportunity to turn kids on to something fun and positive. Contact Annie Sexton at (415) 292-5844 for more info.

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