We are proud to present this guest post by Amir Samandi, Executive Director of Students of Service (SOS), about how teens in San Antonio can learn through local community service and international travel.
We all know that the pandemic exacerbated the addiction to technology that many of our youth are dealing with. Lockdowns and social isolation became the norm for a while and it’s been hard to reduce the reliance on technology for socialization. That said, there’s a great way to get your kids off the couch and off their screens this summer, and that’s through volunteering!
Students of Service (SOS), formerly known as Summer of Service is an organization dedicated to educating San Antonio youth through community service and international travel. It is open to any and all students between the ages of 12-18 years old (typically 6th-12th grades), regardless of where they live or how they attend school. By volunteering together, students get the chance to meet new people that they otherwise might never have met. In this way, we bring the community together to serve it and create positive change.
We have three main pillars that align with our mission: Learn, Serve, and Explore. Each pillar is designed to help students grow and become more well-rounded members of their community.
Learn: SOS provides meaningful opportunities for experiential learning to develop young leaders with a global perspective to solve local problems. We prepare them to make an impact at home and around the world.
Serve: We provide meaningful service learning opportunities to students that can be done in group outings or from home. Our online portal helps keep track of hours, generates a volunteer resume, and much more.
Explore: Helping students expand their understanding of the world by traveling, virtual exchange, or hosting students from abroad. Meeting new people, learning new customs, and experiencing the world first-hand is what SOS is all about!
Throughout the year, students have multiple monthly opportunities to participate in a variety of meaningful community service projects. During the summer, SOS hosts international trips that allow students to look outside of their own communities and continue their learning by exploring different countries and cultures and expanding their knowledge of the world. Students are required to complete a minimum of 15 service hours with SOS to qualify for these international experiences, and the costs associated with the trips vary. This summer, we have travelers going to Costa Rica and South Africa, and next summer we will be in Southern Europe (France, Italy & Spain), London, and Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands!
The hallmark of SOS is community service. Through volunteering, our students learn about their own interests and abilities just as much as they learn about their community. Young people are not the only ones who benefit from working with us. Families are welcome (and encouraged!) to participate alongside their students in volunteering and international travel. Another benefit of volunteering is the scholarship opportunities and resume building. Traveling abroad with the application of service learning experiences done locally can lead to exceptional college admission personal essays. High school students who learn, serve and explore gain new perspectives and international experience that can be taken with them throughout their college career and beyond.
Students who volunteer at service events are presented with the opportunity to go out of their comfort zones and participate in activities they wouldn’t normally be able to do on an average school day. Not only do students get to volunteer, but they get to meet other students in the surrounding community and connect on a personal level. With this collaboration in mind, students are able to excel in their learning and hands-on experience in these projects. By volunteering, students are able to express themselves and their critical thinking skills on a real world level while making a positive difference. This allows for educational and holistic growth.
How to get involved
To get started with SOS visit www.sossanantonio.org to register and sign up for our monthly newsletter to learn about our upcoming events! Our newsletter is published on the first of every month through email or even text.
SOS San Antonio & Charter Moms Chats
Amir Samandi is the Executive Director of Students of Service (SOS), a nonprofit global education organization. Samandi was born into a melting pot of cultures. His father grew up in Iran and his mother in the Rio Grande Valley. While studying at St. Mary’s University, Samandi participated in a study abroad program in London that inspired him to earn a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s in international affairs. After a 10-year career in foreign affairs, he transitioned to education, teaching World Geography and Cultures in North East ISD, working as an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University, and serving Partnership Director at CAST Tech High School.
Read More About Students of Service (SOS)
- KENS5 Great Day SA
- Rivard Report
- KSAT 12
- WOAI News 4
- “Gold and Blue” Alumni magazine from St. Mary’s University
- St. Mary’s University Defining Moments Video
- May 2018 San Antonio Magazine- Educator Extraordinaire
- Ryan’s MiH for Cielo Gardens on KSAT 12
- Star’s MIH – Cards for China on KENS 5
- Masks from China on KSAT
- Diego’s MIH for the Texas Diaper Bank on Fox San Antonio
- Laylah’s MIH – Deaf Ally on KSAT 12
- Joven’s Letters to Senior Citizens
- Helping Migrant Children
- Oxford University Press Research Article
- Texas Education Agency, Expanded Learning Opportunities Council Report
Read More About Volunteering Activities
- “Volunteering Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms,
- “Fostering Dogs as a Family Community Service Activity,” Ramona Gutierrez, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 7, 2020
- “San Antonio High School Internship and Volunteer Opportunities,” Amy Johnson, San Antonio Charter Moms, May 31, 2019
- “Animal Shelter Volunteer Opportunities in San Antonio for Kids,” Amy Johnson, San Antonio Charter Moms, February 28, 2019