ETHS Volunteer Fair aims to recruit more students for community service


Mack Jones, Staff Writer

The Evanston Township High School Volunteer Fair took place on Jan. 19 during Lunch A and B in the Main Lobby. Ten tables replaced the usual furniture in the area, and they were all set up to show volunteer opportunities in the community. Six outside organizations participated, and four student-run groups had tables as well. The event was organized by Student Activities and the Community Service Department and was headed by Diana Balitaan, the Community Service Coordinator, and Erin Claeys, a NU Community Service Intern. Here are each of the different groups that participated in the occasion.

Emily Oaks Nature Center

Emily Oaks Nature Center spans thirteen acres in Skokie and features native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees, a two-acre pond, and various trails. There is various wildlife in the space, including flying squirrels, coyotes, and Cooper’s hawks. There is an indoor facility that offers different classes and activities for visitors to participate in.

Evanston Feeder Basketball

Evanston Feeder Basketball is a youth basketball organization set in Evanston. The program works to streamline the process from playing at a lower level to a high school one. Anyone from first to eighth grade can participate, so long as the player gets through tryouts. 

According to their website, the mission is to, “instill the Evanston Wildkit culture prior to attending high school here in Evanston.” 

Foundation 65

Foundation 65 was created by a group of parents to, “serve our striving students and have recognized that race matters in our educational system.” The group does this by providing financial support for student programs in District 65. 

According to student volunteer Sofia Petrof, “They fund the program so we can get the kids whatever materials that we need in order to help children with that. Right now [teachers] are doing work around literacy. And then we’re also working with them to help students out.”

As she talked about the students, Petrof’s face lit up with excitement.

“They want to know everything. And so it’s really cool to see it because, at a young age, they’re in the lower percentile. So they have a lot of people tell them like, ‘Oh, you’re not good at this. And you’ll never be good at it.’ So they’re like, ‘Well, I never need to know this.’ So my favorite part is seeing them learn how important it is, to get them really excited about it so that they like, ‘Oh my god we’re doing math,’ instead of ‘Ugh my god we’re doing math.’”


Metrosquash was created by the Canadian professional squash player David Kay. He has created multiple organizations similar to Metrosquash, albeit under different names, but all with the same goal of combining, “academic support, competitive squash, and enrichment opportunities to empower students to realize their potential and make their mark.”

Many volunteer-based organizations have been struggling recently to find volunteers, and Metrosquash is no exception. Providing academic support for students after school takes a substantial amount of manpower. 

“We’re recruiting volunteers to work with our students. Mentors. We’re looking for volunteers to work directly with our students in homework support, and enrichment activities like STEM crafts. We want volunteers who want to interact with students, one on one or in small groups,” said Katie Lawler, a Development and Volunteer Assistant Manager at Metrosquash.

Book Buddies

Book Buddies is a non-profit organization to promote literacy through tutoring and mentoring. It operates in several different elementary schools in Evanston, and volunteers are always needed. It is set up by Open Books Ltd., which has the goal of getting more books into kids’ hands. 

“It’s just a bunch of high schoolers at Robert Crown every Thursday with a bunch of preschoolers,” said senior Amy Grill. “Me and another student, Ali Cutter, have been organizing it. I really like hanging out with kids and reading to them. It’s a lot of fun and relaxing.”

Family Focus

Family Focus runs support and life-enrichment programs for children. They intend to give parents support by giving them the knowledge and resources they need to give their children a positive start to life. 

Volunteer Olivia Tayong works after school on Wednesdays with Family Focus.

“We just read things, and we help little kids out with their homework. I think reading to the kids is pretty fun,” she said. “We’re trying to sustain the projects that have been created by the organization, but not a lot of people have been able to help out. So we’re trying to get more volunteers here through the Volunteer Fair.”

Equity and Empowerment for Evanston Families

Equity and Empowerment for Evanston Families or EEEF serves families of color in Evanston that have been marginalized by structural racism. Similar to Family Focus, EEEF also provides resources to parents. Mentorship programs, academic support, discovery opportunities, and real-world experiences are all offered by EEEF to help children and families live their best lives. 

Camp Kuumba Tutoring

Camp Kuumba Tutoring is a volunteer opportunity at the Camp Kuumba summer camp. Volunteers will participate in a six-week program that offers reading and math enrichment, parent workshops, field trips, fitness, and fine arts. There are a variety of ways to get involved, but tutor Sierra Gentle learned about the program through Varsity Basketball after her coach recommended she participate.

“We’re just raising awareness for tutoring,” said Gentle. “We’re interested in helping people at the volunteer fair sign up for it because we can always use more people helping to teach the kids. It’s going really great so far, a lot of people have been coming over by our table, signing up. Hopefully, they’ll help us out in the future.” 

Open Studio Project

Open Studio Project supports children through art. They are a non-profit organization in Evanston that has operated for over thirty years. 

According to their website, “Our mission is to bring art directly to individuals for personal growth, social-emotional learning, and community well-being.” 

Rob Lentz, program director for Open Studio Project, has done a lot of work in the office but appreciates the moments he can get out into the community to help out.

“A couple of times a week I get to go out and facilitate programs that we do with kids or adults,” said Lentz. “And that’s my favorite part, just doing the process. The way that we work with the participants. We all do the same work that goes into making art together. I’m an artist, so that’s gratifying for me.”

Books and Breakfast

The last table at the ETHS Volunteer Fair was one for Books and Breakfast. It is a before-school program that offers breakfast, homework help, and emotional assistance to Evanston students in need. 

According to their website, their vision is to build, “an Evanston community in which every child is understood to be a valued and connected part of the community, where every school community reflects this reality, and where every child is able to reach their full academic potential. B&B envisions an Evanston community that is actively committed to just and equitable outcomes for all its children.” 

It spans six schools in District 65, Dewey, Lincolnwood, Kingsley, Lincoln, Walker and Haven Middle School. In these schools, the program manages to support almost 200 students each day. 

The mission of the program is to ensure that every student can enter their classrooms, physically, emotionally, and academically prepared,” said volunteer and organizer Tasha Triplett. “We are a social justice organization. And so our vision for our organization is to fill in the gaps that are created by systemic racism.”

To find out more about volunteering, visit the ETHS Community Service Website