Volunteer fair connects students with service

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Tatiana Dozier registers to vote at the Planned Parenthood table Wednesday morning as part of the Volunteer Fair. Planned Parenthood was one of 70 groups that participated in the fair.

Photo Credit: Shaina Bowen | Daily Texan Staff

The Volunteer and Service Learning Center gave students looking for volunteer opportunities a chance to explore their local options during its semiannual volunteer fair Wednesday.

The center has been hosting volunteer fairs on campus every semester since 1972 in an effort to connect students with local nonprofit organizations. In recent years, 70 groups have sent representatives to the career fair seeking volunteers, interns and employees. Each organization had its own booth and representatives to answer questions, giving students the opportunity to sign up to volunteer for many different nonprofits in one place.

Yvonne Fuentes, director for community engagement at the center, said the fair is a perfect way for students and organizations to meet and benefit from each other.

“We think the face time [the students] have with nonprofits is valuable, because it ensures they have a positive experience,” Fuentes said. “Our ultimate goal is for both parties to benefit from each other’s participation so that there is reciprocity.”

Fuentes said more than 1,500 students signed up to volunteer during the last volunteer fair, giving each organization an average of 21 new student volunteers.

After visiting booths, mechanical engineering freshman Codey Pham said the fair offered a way for those who enjoy the benefits of volunteering to continue service.

“I have been volunteering for nonprofits for about four years now, mainly with Habitat for Humanity during high school, where we built houses for underprivileged families,” Pham said. “I came to this fair because it seems to have a wide array of organizations and chances to volunteer, and I like the fact that through the fair I can begin to reach out and give back.”

Margaret Valenti, project manager for Austin Community Tree, a city-sponsored tree-planting program, said the volunteer fair is a worthwhile, well-run event that benefits the entire community.

“I love the fair, because it gives students the ability to give back to Austin and I always know what to expect,” Valenti said. “The organizers do very well in organizing it, so I always look forward to it.”

Biochemistry junior Josh Crow said he thinks the fair was a successful venture for students looking for volunteering opportunities.

“I began volunteering a year ago and fell in love with it,” Crow said. “That is the reason why I am here, and just by walking around I can tell right away that I have a lot of options. Everyone is very helpful and I am just really excited about it all.”

Printed on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 as: Center puts on volunteer fair, connecting students to service