Volunteer Fair promotes student involvement in Austin community

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Junior chemistry major Sumaiya Syed, left, speaks to Michelle Lutz, right, from Love is Respect, a domestic violence hotline for adolescents at the Volunteer Fair Wednesday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Maribel Molina | Daily Texan Staff

UT hosted members of mentoring programs, cultural awareness groups and other volunteer organizations Wednesday to get students involved in community service both on and off campus.

The Volunteer Fair, sponsored by UT’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center, hosted nonprofit and government organizations looking to recruit students to volunteer.

Kimberly Edwards, the center’s community engagement coordinator, said the fair is designed to make a wide range of volunteer opportunities more accessible to students. Getting involved in community service helps students broaden their perspectives and become better-rounded individuals, she said.

“I feel it’s very important to give of yourself and to give through service,” Edwards said. “If you give back to someone, that person can also be motivated to help others.”

She said the center aims to make people at the University more aware of the number of volunteering opportunities available around Austin.

“Austin is certainly a city where people are aware and active in giving back,” Edwards said. “The number of students at the University of Texas is such a huge resource for thousands of nonprofits that we have here.”

Members of Big Brothers Big Sisters, a nonprofit mentoring program for underprivileged children, attended the fair to recruit volunteers from all majors and fields. Elizabeth Contreras, a member of the organization, said she is seeking students who are committed to making a difference in the lives of underserved children.

“We have a lot of UT students who volunteer with us,” Contreras said. “It’s really great to serve as a role model in a child’s life and show them that they can get an education and achieve great things too.”

Contreras said she encourages UT students to get involved in community service because volunteering helped her achieve a more enriching college experience.

“You get such a positive feeling from giving back, and you make a lot of great friendships,” she said. “I think it helps you develop yourself both professionally and personally.”

Melanie Morgan, Mexic-Arte Museum spokeswoman, said she is seeking volunteers for an upcoming art festival the museum is hosting in October.

“Cultural organizations are important for remembering who you are,” Morgan said. “It often seems like the campus is cut off from the rest of the Austin community, and we think it’s important to get students on campus involved in a wider range of organizations.”

Aimee Ford, plan II and pre-med freshman, said she attended the fair to find new community service opportunities as she transitions from high school to college life.

“I feel like college is about much more than just classes and education,” Ford said. “I definitely feel like a lot of people at UT have that awareness and spirit of giving back.” 

Printed on September 8, 2011 as: Volunteer fair attracts service-driven students