The Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) is committed to helping each student explore how they may blend their service and social innovation interests with their personal values and professional goals. Below are a few of the ways Grinnell students choose to serve.


Students at Grinnell volunteer with 80-100 regional community partners each year. Some volunteer individually, some through dedicated student groups, some through athletic teams and others through peer connections.

Students: To chat with a member of the CLS team about opportunities, call 641-269-4940 for an appointment or stop by the CLS any weekday afternoon during Quickstops (login required).

Community Partners: To offer to host volunteers call 641-269-4940.

Alternative Break

Grinnell College’s “AltBreak” program is unique in that the program itself is designed and led by students. Students not only administer the program, they also identify and lead service trips themselves. Past trips have studied and addressed topics such as immigration, education access, environmental justice, and the dynamics of poverty and homelessness.

Students: Learn more about Alternative Break (login required)

Community Partners: To offer to host an alternative break email Keira Wilson.

Service Learning Work-Study

The College commits around 6,000 hours of service through the Service Learning Work-Study (SLWS) program. Open to all students eligible to work on campus, the program provides students with paid, community driven service opportunities in local non-profit and governmental organizations. These positions not only help students explore their civic interests, they also provide invaluable opportunities to gain real-world problem solving skills and insights while serving the local community.

Community Partner Core Requirements:

(New sites submit SLWS proposals in December after which approved sites participate in a pilot semester with the program.)

Service Opportunities

Partner sites provide community service opportunities that increase the organization's’ capacity to do their work and improve the lives of those living in the region.

On-site Supervisor

Partner sites provide an on-site supervisor that mentors the SLWS student. This supervisor not only communicates regularly with the SLWS student, but also provides feedback to the College about the program, their student’s service, and the impact of their work.

Role Description

Partner sites provide the College with desired SLWS role descriptions. These descriptions explain how the service work improves the lives of those in the community and how the work fits into the mission of the organization. This description also identifies the experience, skill sets, and knowledge base required by the position.

Consistent Work Environment

In collaboration with the College, partner sites set regular and reliable hours of work and maintain an environment that respects the diversity Grinnell that students bring to the community.

Guidebook for Partners

Students: Learn more about Service Learning Work-Study (login required).

Community Partners: For more information about how to host a SLWS, please contact Keira Wilson.

Spark Tank Social Innovation Challenge

Spark Tank Social Innovation Challenge teams work with local community partners to research, evaluate, and develop innovative solutions to local social justice issues. The innovation teams pitch their solutions to the community and a panel of local judges selects challenge winners. Winning teams are granted funding from the Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership (login required) and support from the Center for Careers, Life and Service, to implement their social innovation.

Students: Learn more about the Spark Tank Social Innovation Challenge (login required).

Community Partners: To learn more about how to participate in the program please call 641-269-4940 or email Susan Sanning.