A third of University of Texas at Austin students commit to community service each semester, an accomplishment that the Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC) is choosing to recognize monthly through a recently expanded program.
“Most of these community efforts go unnoticed by our campus, so the purpose of this program is to broadcast and highlight the contributions made to the local community by members of the student body,” said Yvonne Loya, VSLC director.
Recently, Mayra Cerda, chemistry and UTEACH senior, learned that she was selected as the outstanding student volunteer for September. This is her third semester volunteering at Ruiz Branch Library with the VICTORY Tutorial Program, working with seven elementary and middle school students. She continues volunteering two nights a week because, “I learn as much from the kids as the kids learn from me.”
Mindy Enderle, program specialist for VICTORY, says, “Mayra has gone above and beyond to seek out educational resources that will set these students up to succeed in the classroom. She explains things in a way that lead children to aha moments quite frequently.”
The outstanding student group also recognized is Sigma Lambda Beta, a Hispanic male fraternity that places community service high among its principles. The group has volunteered with the River City Youth Foundation (RCYF), a comprehensive neighborhood-based youth agency serving Dove Springs in South Austin, for the past seven years. The members assist the agency with its annual Christmas Kindness and TechComunidad programs, and three of the organization’s members are work-study students assigned as math tutors.
Ricardo Ventura, corporate communications senior, said that Dove Springs is a heavily Latino community and he finds the children they interact with relate easily to the group’s membership.
“A lot of the fraternity brothers don’t necessarily come from the best neighborhoods, but we’ve all had at least one role model who was there for us so that’s just our way of giving back to the community,” he said.
Awardees receive a certificate and a gift card from a local vendor. Community agencies are encouraged to submit nominations, and students and registered campus organizations can self-nominate.