Penn State student groups spotlight: Students serve the community

By Molly Sheerer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- With more than 40,000 students, Penn State is a large school with lots to do. On-campus involvement fairs are a helpful way for students to learn about campus organizations. Finding one’s niche is important at a large school -- and there are more than 870 clubs and organizations, including volunteering, for students to choose from at University Park.

While a lot of Penn Staters get involved with philanthropy through THON, many choose to devote their Penn State experience to other areas of service. Penn State’s University Park campus has 46 service organizations that students can join and all of them are listed on Penn State’s club website. Though they are all different, they each have one thing in common: helping others.

Highlighted below are a few of the many organizations at Penn State filled with students devoting their time to better themselves and their community.

Habitat for Humanity

Penn State’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, associated with Centre County, is filled with students who dedicate their time to build homes for families who need a hand. President of Penn State’s Habitat for Humanity, Alyssa Tracy, a senior hotel, restaurant and institutional management major from Broomall, Pa., said she really believes in Habitat because it’s not a hand out.

“The families have to perform sweat equity hours and set up a mortgage plan before they can have a house built,” Tracy said. “Most families continue volunteering even after their house is built. It’s very much a pay it forward type of system.”

Penn State’s Habitat for Humanity chapter is sending a few members to the Collegiate Challenge in Florida this year. Students use their spring break to attend and meet other chapters while building homes. Tracy says the Collegiate Challenge is a big incentive for most members but there are still spots open for this year’s challenge. To find out more about the challenge or to get involved with Habitat for Humanity, contact Alyssa Tracy.

Student Red Cross Club

Penn State’s Student Red Cross Club (SRCC) is all about service and forming bonds that last a lifetime. Members in the club spend time volunteering at blood drives, becoming CPR instructors and teaching youth programs on water and fire safety. SRCC’s president Melissa Hubley, a senior majoring in microbiology from Oxford, Pa., said the club is for absolutely anyone.

“The club is filled with people who are passionate about making the world a better place,” Hubley said. “The members of SRCC also want to have fun. We have a diverse group of people who come together to help others.”

Students interested in joining Student Red Cross Club can contact Melissa Hubley at or follow them on Twitter @psuredcross or visit their website.

Best Buddies

Best Buddies matches college students with community members with mental and intellectual disabilities. Pairs hang out one-on-one and participate in group activities once a month. Best Buddies’ goal, according to president Olivia Garbett, a junior majoring in special education from Pittsburgh, is to run themselves out of business.

“We hope to reach a point where we’re no longer needed,” Garbett said. “Hopefully society will reach a point where people with disabilities don’t need a forum to hang out with others, they just can.”

This spring, Best Buddies has two big events: Spread the Word, End the Word awareness week in March and the Best Buddies Ball in April. To get involved with Best Buddies, contact Olivia Garbett or follow them on Twitter @BestBuddies_PSU.

Big Brother, Big Sister

Big Brother, Big Sister is all about providing children with a friend that will listen, hang out and make them feel at home. The goal of the organization is to give everyone the experience of being a ‘Big’, which in turn allows college students to brighten a child’s day, according to Big Brother, Big Sister president Amandeep Singh. Singh is a senior majoring in human development and family studies from Philadelphia.

This spring, Big Brother, Big Sister is busy. The organization is hosting two different days called ‘Big for a Day’ where they’ll set up stations in a big classroom on campus and just aim to provide fun for all of the kids in attendance. The group also will continue their Easter tradition of working with an area motorcycle club to provide a fun day of Easter egg hunts and games for the kids. To get involved in either event, contact Amandeep Singh.

Gamma Sigma Sigma

Gamma Sigma Sigma, a service sorority, has 126 active sisters and provides girls at Penn State with a way to make new friends and do good for the community. Gamma Sigma Sigma is involved with THON, as well as volunteer efforts with Shaver’s Creek, Big Brother, Big Sister, Schlow Library, and Lifelink PSU.
Gamma Sigma Sigma’s President, Erin O’Toole, a senior hotel, restaurant and institutional management major from Downingtown, Pa., says joining Gamma Sigma Sigma gave her an instant 100 plus friends as well as an opportunity to do more for the community.

“Penn State has given me so much, and it’s great to be able to give back,” O’Toole said.

Gamma Sigma Sigma is also involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and this year their annual Folly Fest is on Sunday, March 24. The event is held at the Spikes Stadium and benefits Make-A-Wish. To help with this event or get involved with Gamma Sigma Sigma, contact Erin O’Toole or follow them on Twitter @gsspsu.

Alpha Phi Omega
Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity with 60 members, is based on the principles of the Boy Scouts of America. According to Alpha Phi Omega President, Jeffery Amos, a senior majoring in Microbiology and Food Science from Prospect, NY., the organization combines the social aspect of a fraternity with the service aspect of a volunteer organization.

“Our goal is to better ourselves and the community through our work,” Amos said.

Alpha Phi Omega offers various leadership opportunities through 20 active positions and service. The club is active with events at Shaver’s Creek and Mt. Nittany Conservatory. Alpha Phi Omega also works weekly with mentally handicap adults helping them earn weekly badges. This April, Alpha Phi Omega will hold their annual First Aid event with local Boy Scouts helping create and instruct the boys through scenarios where they need to help a fake victim.
To get involved with Alpha Phi Omega, contact Jeffrey Amos.

These  organizations are only some of the great clubs Penn State offers for students interested in service. To learn about more, visit

Last Updated April 19, 2017