Volunteer FAQ

Please note that many of the FAQs relate to our school-year program opportunities (we also have summer programs and the volunteer responsibilities are often a bit different).   

I have zero experience tutoring, does this matter?

For our volunteer tutor position, it doesn’t matter! The majority of what our volunteer tutors do is assist K-8 grade students with their homework; it’s not necessary to have a background in education or experience tutoring.

Will I ever be alone during a homework lab session?

No. There is always at least one site coordinator present at each tutoring sessions. Site coordinators may be Chicago HOPES staff, shelter staff or trusted, returning volunteers. Site coordinators serve several purposes: 1) Liaison between Chicago HOPES, the shelter and the volunteers. 2) Maintain an orderly learning environment 3) Provide support and supervision to volunteers.

How are the homework lab sessions structured?

We staff each session with a site coordinator and tutors.

School Year: In each of our programs, we have an open door policy, so students are welcome to come at any time during the session. Many of our students also use Chicago HOPES as a safe place to complete their homework, even if they don’t need assistance. This is fine. We just let them know that we are here for them when they need us. If a student doesn’t have homework or completes their homework, we have a coinciding math and literacy support program (includes educational worksheets, games, activities and books) for the students to work on. 

Summer: Our summer program is focused on Academic Enrichment. Each day there will be an activity facilitated by either an enrichment volunteer or the site coordinator(s). Activities are interactive and educational, incorporating students and volunteers. If a student has summer school homework, volunteers will assist the student with completing their assignment.

Will I be matched one-on-one with a student?

School-Year: Our goal is to have one-on-one tutoring for all our students. However, due to the nature of our program and the population we work with, this isn’t always feasible. It is difficult to predict how many tutors we will need each day. As a volunteer, you might be asked to work with up to three students at a time. We do not match tutors with a student to work with each week. This may happen naturally, but we expect all our tutors to be open to working with many different students over their time with HOPES.

Summer: Because the HOPES summer program is structured to be more interactive, with planned activities, we do not need a 1:1 student to volulnteer ratio. Because we still want to offer our students personalized support and attention, we stirve to have a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio.

I only want to help students with math. Is this possible?

Because our main focus is assisting students with their homework, it’s important for all our volunteers to be comfortable helping students with a variety of subjects. We are not able to accommodate volunteers that only want to tutor exclusively in one subject.

What if I only want to work with students in a certain grade?

Our program is open to all students in grades K-12. However, the majority of our programs have a larger number of K-8 students. If you have a preferred grade level, we will do our best to accommodate this, but we cannot guarantee that you will always be able to work with one grade/level of students. It’s important for you to be comfortable working with students in all different grades.

I work full time. Can I volunteer in the evening or weekends?

At this time, all our tutoring sessions take place during after-school hours (3pm-5pm). We aren’t able to accommodate volunteers outside of these times. 

I can’t commit to volunteering weekly. Can I volunteer when I’m available?

We ask that our volunteers commit to tutoring once a week in order to provide a sense of stability in our students' lives. We are not able to accommodate volunteers that are only available bi-monthly or periodically. During the school year, we request that all our volunteers not miss more than three sessions during the semester. Because our summer program is only 6 weeks long, we request that volunteers not miss any sessions.

I would like to volunteer more than once a week. Is this allowed?

YES! We gladly accept volunteers that would like to volunteer multiple days a week.

Do you have one-time volunteer opportunities?

We do not have one-time opportunities for individuals. However, we occasionally have groups volunteer for one-time events. Past events have included facilitating a literacy day, warehouse clean-up, and planting summer gardens. Due to the nature of our tutoring sessions, it’s generally not feasible to incorporate groups into our normal homework lab sessions. If you have an idea for a one-time event or a group interested in volunteering, please contact the volunteer coordinator with your proposed project, a time line for the event and how many volunteers you would have.

How do I become a volunteer?

1) Fill out the online sign-up form. You should expect to hear back from a Chicago HOPES staff member within one to two business days.

2) Attend Chicago HOPES training. You will receive a confirmation e-mail once you sign up for a volunteer training. (Please do not just show up!) At the training, you will receive tips, tricks, and techniques that will help you in your volunteer role.

3) Select a site. At the end of the training, you’ll be asked to select your top three site/day preferences. Some of our sites are extremely popular and space fills up fast. We cannot guarantee you’ll be placed at your top preference. We encourage all our volunteers to consider the west side and south side sites, as they are the ones with the highest need. If the site you prefer is full, we can place you on a waiting list.

4) Background Check. After the training, Chicago HOPES will process your background check. This can take up to two weeks, but generally takes less. Once that clears, you will be notified of your site placement. For tutors and head tutors, we will ask you to get started at the beginning of the semester or right away if the semester has already started. For enrichment volunteers, you will be given the dates on which you will facilitate an activity. 

More information:

Visit our volunteer homepage or learn more about our volunteers at the volunteer spotlight page. 

Volunteer inquiries: contact Volunteer Coordinator at chicago.hopes.volunteers@gmail.com