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Volunteering at Heart of Student Experience: About 74 percent of undergraduates were involved in community service last year


Student Volunteers at The University of Texas at Austin

Sly Majid

—“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 organization.

Sly Majid
Sly 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 well.”

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 me do.”

Ricardo Gutierrez

—“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 it.”

Shannon Trilli

—“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 York University.

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 program.

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.

Stephanie Collett

Stephanie Collett
Stephanie 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 2001-2002.

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

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,” Gulati said.

Contact: Robert D. Meckel

Contributing writer: Betty Jeanne Wolfe

Photos: Marsha Miller

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  Updated 2014 October 13
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