As one of their many volunteer initiatives, the Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement held a volunteer involvement fair Wednesday, where organizations encouraged students to look for a way to give back.
The organizations involved included AmeriCorps, the Girl Scouts of Central Texas, YMCA of Austin and the child support division of Attorney General Greg Abbott. The fair was organized through the efforts of the Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement to bring together student and volunteer options outside of the University with a community impact.
“Some students who volunteer are exploring career opportunities and others simply just want to help their community, which is a reflection of UT as a whole,” said David Galvez, who works for the engagement center.
There is a push by the engagement center to incorporate service into curriculum at UT.
“One of the pillars of the civic center is to transform courses into service-learning,” said Katie Pritchett, the civic engagement coordinator and educational administration graduate student. “Right now there are 22 academic disciplines that use the service-learning method.”
Pritchett said an example of such a course was an accounting class that filed tax returns for low-income Austin residents which brought in $31 million in returns.
“There is also a Spanish class in which students work closely with ESL students with the hope of getting their English more proficient,” Pritchett said.
The class is one of many service organizations that the center presents to students.
“The center is essentially a database that compiles organizations which offer community service opportunities for students” said Nancy Vasquez, a sophomore who works at the center.
Pritchett said a large number of UT students do volunteer work.
“Seventy four percent of the student population volunteers, which is more than the turnout for each football game,” Pritchett said.
The type of volunteering that students engage in follows no specific pattern or field.
Galvez said there are a variety of organizations and clubs with which students volunteer.
“The Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement is affiliated with hundreds of organizations and there is a myriad of opportunity ranging from youth outreach to hospital work,” Galvez said.
The Center — and their initiatives including the fair — links students to organizations that interest them and allow them to then practice those interests in the real world.
“We think of ourselves as a bridge for UT students looking to volunteer,” Galvez said.