UCLA Students Volunteer at JFSLA

For the last two years, students from the University of California Los Angeles have volunteered with JFSLA through a course offered by the UCLA Center for Community Engagement. Through this course, UCLA partners with community organizations such as JFSLA to help undergraduate students build critical thinking skills and develop an awareness of social issues through active participation in the community. Since the 2021 fall quarter, 19 UCLA students have volunteered at JFSLA SOVA West pantry or at JFSLA senior dining centers located throughout Los Angeles. In addition to volunteering, students meet JFSLA staff and learn more about JFSLA services provided to the Angeleno community. 

“The UCLA students are very helpful,” said Joyce Williams, JFSLA Director of Volunteers and Training. “Some of the students are bilingual in languages such as Korean, Russian, and Spanish, which has been such an immense benefit as they can connect with clients who are more comfortable speaking in their native language.”

Currently there are four UCLA students volunteering at the JFSLA SOVA West pantry. The students help sort fresh produce, bag grocery items, distribute groceries to clients, and other tasks. “Some have even performed the important responsibility of signing up new SOVA applicants,” said Stella Souza, JFSLA SOVA West Pantry Assistant. “Those who have appreciate working directly with clients. All have been respectful and interested in engaging with the community. The students get along well with other volunteers of all ages, and our established volunteers are often heartened to meet such smart young people.” 

In addition, three UCLA students have been volunteering with JFSLA’s Senior Nutrition Program at the senior dining centers located at the Fairfax Senior Citizen Center and the Jona Goldrich Multipurpose Center. The students help serve clients meals, assist with cleaning and sanitization, and handle client information ensuring that everyone who receives a meal is accounted for. “Our clients appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that college students often bring when interacting with them,” said Stratton Harrison, JFSLA Congregate Meal Site Supervisor. “Having intergenerational connections goes a long way for both parties involved.”

At the end of an academic term, Joyce Williams is asked to evaluate JFSLA’s experience with the students in the course. The feedback is taken into consideration and applied to the next round of students who plan to volunteer at JFSLA. The UCLA Center for Community Engagement also sends Joyce comments from the students, which in turn helps JFSLA improve the experience for upcoming UCLA students. Throughout the past two years, the number of students who have selected to volunteer with JFSLA has increased. “I believe that if we give them a positive and enriching experience, they will encourage other students to take the class and volunteer with JFSLA,” said Joyce. One of the UCLA students recently referred a friend, who is not enrolled in the course, to volunteer at JFSLA SOVA. 

“This class is part of an impressive program at UCLA to teach students about life outside the campus and the impact they can make on the local community,” said Joyce Williams. “It starts to plant the seed in how they can continue making a difference moving forward.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to make a difference in our Los Angeles community, please visit