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For more than 100 years, students have called PBHA the best course at Harvard. We believe that through service to others, students gain experiences and wisdom that cannot be learned within classroom walls.  At PBHA, students develop the skills to become lifelong leaders and advocates for social change.

PBHA’s dual mission is to grow public service leaders while providing vital resources to local communities. Student leaders guide PBHA’s daily operations and long-term vision, designing and running all PBHA programs and overseeing the management of the organization.  Students work closely with community members and constituents to ensure that PBHA’s programs meet genuine community needs.

Students leaders at PBHA are enrolled in colleges and universities throughout greater Boston. Some students are new to the area; some have grown up in the neighborhoods we serve. PBHA is committed to supporting students of diverse economic and social backgrounds as they become leaders in their communities.

“My experience at PBHA showed me that I could make a real difference in the world – even as a seventeen year old. It’s why I continue to do that work today.” – Richard Buery, Jr. ’92, City of New York’s Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives


At PBHA, 1500 students volunteer with more than 80 programs to meet community needs throughout Boston and Cambridge. Volunteers tutor students after school, build lasting mentoring relationships with teens, offer housing and support to individuals experiencing homelessness, and much more. In all our programs, students partner with communities to advocate for structural change throughout Boston and Cambridge.

The structure of PBHA’s programs is as varied as the students who lead them. Programs are based in schools and churches, community centers and housing developments across the city. Most programs are based in the communities they serve; some operate on the Harvard campus. Students volunteer seven days a week during the semester, school breaks, and over the summer. To find the right volunteer opportunity for you, check out the full listing of PBHA programs.

Jorge talkingLead

At PBHA, students don’t just volunteer with programs – they lead them. Student directors oversee all aspects of program management, from developing a budget and managing volunteers, to maintaining community partnerships and long-term strategic plans. Through the support of PBHA’s professional staff, program directors engage deeply with the communities they work in while developing valuable nonprofit management skills.

Together, these program directors compose PBHA’s governing body, the Cabinet. Regular Cabinet meetings bring student leaders together to share best practices, ensure quality across programs, and develop as leaders through training and reflection.

Overseeing all of this is PBHA’s officers team, a group of 20 students elected by their peers to guide PBHA’s daily operations and long-term vision. Officers are paired with professional staff to guide and evaluate programming, deepen community partnerships, manage fiscal resources, and recruit and train their fellow volunteers. Officers are elected each fall to one year terms beginning in February.


At PBHA, we know that high quality service lasts more than an afternoon. We believe that through leading and engaging in service, students develop the skills, understanding, and shared commitment to make a positive difference well beyond their undergraduate years.

PBHA’s volunteers build the skills and understanding needed to be effective in social justice work. Students supplement and improve their service with trainings on topics ranging from mentoring and tutoring to special needs youth work and community organizing.

In addition to building skills through training, students engage in reflection to develop social consciousness and a deep understand of self and community. We recognize that service and training alone do not lead to critical thinking or long-term commitment to justice; through reflection, students understand their work in the context of the community and PBHA’s mission to achieve social justice. 

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For students who are deeply committed to continuing their service work after graduation, PBHA offers a postgraduate service fellowship. The fellowship enables students to put their vision for social change into action as they enter a lifetime commitment to service.