Student Volunteers at The
University of Texas at Austin
—“Seeing, just knowing, that I made a difference
in someone’s life is possibly one of the most amazing things....”
“Sly Majid’s hope, when he first arrived at The University
of Texas at Austin, was to continue the kind of volunteer work he
had enjoyed as a high school student in his hometown of Allen, just
north of Dallas. He has not been disappointed.
Majid, a junior majoring in government, has become a leader in
campus volunteerism in addition to having a political leadership
role as vice president of the university’s student government
Majid became involved in volunteerism at an early age and
now is a leader in the university’s largest annual beautification
project in Austin.
“Sly came to the university with a passion for helping others,”
said Glen Baumgart, coordinator of the University Volunteer Program.
“In his first three years at The University of Texas at Austin,
Sly has run an environmental program for youth, created a service
organization for first-year students and coordinated one of the
university’s largest one-day service programs—Project
2003. As a volunteer, Sly has dedicated himself to others. As a
leader, Sly has led more than 2,500 students to get involved as
Baumgart said Majid has been named chair of Project 2004, which
will involve a one-day project next spring with more than 2,000
volunteers helping to clean and beautify an Austin neighborhood.
Majid said values instilled by his Muslim faith and his family
inspired him to seek volunteer opportunities while in junior high
school. In Allen, he was active in United Way projects and worked
in a community center. He was also a member of PALS (Peer Assistance
League) and mentored at elementary schools twice a week.
Majid said that when he became a student at The University of Texas
at Austin he began helping the Student Volunteer Board, which taught
him that anything that needs to be done can be done.
“The time and amount of work you give in is what you get
out of it, and it’s something that has been a staple in my
life and will be for many years to come,” Majid said. “You
should never wait for someone to do it for you. If you see a problem,
go out there and try to fix it.”
Majid said a valuable volunteer experience for him was designing
and implementing a new program called Texas FIRST (Freshmen Integrating
Respect Service and Teamwork). The program is designed to develop
a freshmen class or interest group based on service.
Majid said he believes anyone who gets involved in community service
at the university will reap benefits far beyond graduation.
“There’s a sense of fulfillment and a sense of pride
that you left this university a better place than when you arrived,”
Majid said. “I think that really represents and portrays what
I want to do and what the University Volunteer Center has helped
—“It’s amazing to see the work that we’re
getting done…. I would have never seen myself organizing
something where we have up to 2,500 students helping others. And,
to me, that’s something that I don’t think I could
do if I weren’t working in a student environment.”
Serving on the team for the Project 2001 beautification program
helped Ricardo Gutierrez affirm his personal definition of volunteerism.
“It’s not just something I can do, but something I
should do,” said Gutierrez, a native of Hebbronville, Texas
who was very involved in volunteerism at The University of Texas
at Austin during 2001-2002.
He said he grew up being taught it was important to help other
people and he carried that with him to Austin when he entered the
university. He became involved in the University Volunteer Center
and learned to become a more effective volunteer using certain processes
for planning events and projects.
Building on the sentiment instilled in him by his family, Gutierrez
was prompted to get involved with volunteerism at The University
of Texas at Austin based on his sense of “needing to help
other people.” Gutierrez began his involvement through student
organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Civitan. From there
he became involved with what he designates as his most valuable
volunteer experience, Project 2001. This led to his having been
selected as the co-chair for the highly successful Project 2002,
which drew broad recognition as a community and environmental program.
Gutierrez, who has taken time out from university studies this
year to pursue an interest in culinary school, has fond memories
of some of the residents who were helped by the student volunteers
during Project 2002.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “I remember
going from house to house just talking to the homeowners and just
making sure everything was all right with them, and making sure
they got their work done. I remember this one little lady, Ms. Huff,
she was about 80 years old. She came out and she gave me this big
hug and told me she was real grateful for the work we did and that
she was so excited when we brought the plants over. She went inside
and put on her overalls and her gloves and planted the plants right
there whenever we showed up, because she was that excited about
—“To me, community involvement is almost a duty as
a citizen of that community.”
Shannon Trilli credits the University Volunteer Center at The University
of Texas at Austin as “the most influential factor”
in helping her to realize her career aspirations. Through her experience
with Project 2001, a community beautification project, she was inspired
to pursue a master’s degree in nonprofit management at New
Beginning her voluntary experiences as part of high school organizations,
Trilli worked at blood drives, highway clean-ups and taught Sunday
school at her church. She began her involvement with the University
Volunteer Center as a member of the Student Volunteer Board and
eventually co-chaired Project Reach Out and Project 2001. She also
was the Project 2000 Elderly and Disabled Homes Chair and served
as an elementary school tutor through the Neighborhood Longhorns
When she arrived at The University of Texas at Austin, Trilli participated
in volunteerism because it made her feel good. By the time she left
the university, she considered volunteerism to be a civic duty.
Collett said her volunteer work brought a meaning to her life
that she plans to combine with a career in law.
Stephanie Collett is an innovator. Her credits include founding
two important volunteer programs at The University of Texas at Austin,
the UTReads tutoring program and the Hearts of Texas Rescue Team,
a disaster relief program, while she was an undergraduate student.
Starting these programs prompted Collett to become the chair of
the University of Texas Volunteer Board during her senior year in
Now a first-year student in the university’s School of Law,
Collett said her undergraduate experience with the University Volunteer
Center has taught her to combine two things very dear to her heart—volunteerism
and law—in planning her career.
“The meaning that the volunteer experience has brought into
my life…whatever I choose to do in the legal field, I’m
going to look for that meaning,” said Collett. She said her
volunteer experience at the university taught her an important lesson
that has become her philosophy about volunteerism—“Do
service in an area where people really need you.”
She said her early volunteer efforts involved participation in
canned food drives but she found a whole other “dimension”
to volunteerism when she got involved in direct service at the university
with projects like the Hearts of Texas Rescue Team. Collett said
this disaster relief program collects funds needed by victims and
provides the campus with an outlet to react to disasters that occur
around the world.
Richa Gulati has always believed people should give something back
to their communities. She certainly gave her share as one of the
thousands of students from The University of Texas at Austin who
performed volunteer service during 2001.
“Your environment is only as good as you make it,”
said Gulati, who was graduated from the university in spring 2001
and went on to Harvard School of Law with plans to concentrate on
the area of international public service.
While at The University of Texas at Austin, Gulati was named as
a Harry S. Truman Scholar for Public Service, receiving the award
for her commitment to service as the chair of Student Hunger Awareness
Week, an officer in the Indian Student’s Association and co-chair
of the International Awareness Committee of the Texas Union Council.
Richa was the only Texan to be named a Truman Scholar in 2001.
As part of the university’s Student Volunteer Board and Project
ReachOut, Gulati was able to realize her most valuable volunteer
experience by observing the other students around her who were so
committed to service.
“I both adored and was humbled by being surrounded by so
many selfless individuals who were always proud to serve UT,”