Viva Volunteers Make Connections, Differences in the Community

Volunteers with Jindal OutREACH spruced up some front yards in Oak Cliff during Viva Volunteer. In all, they planted 107 trees for residents. For the day, UT Dallas volunteers donated 2,555 hours of labor and saved nonprofit organizations more than $63,000.

UT Dallas senior Jose Delgado wasn’t expecting his volunteer service to take a personal turn. But while visiting an assisted living facility during the University’s 2018 Viva Volunteer service event, he recognized a familiar face.

“I was looking around at the residents, and I saw her. I turned to the student next to me and said, ‘You won’t believe this, but I think that’s my eighth-grade algebra teacher,’” Delgado said. He was pleased to tell her that he was about to graduate with a degree in computer science from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Volunteer Opportunities

The Office of Student Volunteerism connects students to the needs of their community through service opportunities, including Alternative Spring Break (ASB), which will be March 17-22. To learn more about ASB, an information session will be held 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, in SSA 12.471.

The office also offers other volunteer opportunities on an ongoing basis. You can find more events here.

Delgado was among the more than 500 UT Dallas students who came together on a single day to perform service projects across the community. Organized by the Office of Student Volunteerism (OSV), Viva Volunteer participants from 27 UT Dallas student organizations and scholarship groups invested in a day of service at 23 community sites. The project coincided with the national Make a Difference Day.

The volunteers’ tasks included assembling furniture at area Habitat for Humanity ReStores, sorting donations at the North Texas Food Bank, washing kennels and walking dogs at the Plano Animal Shelter, and painting a mural at the UT Dallas Community Garden.

The volunteers’ combined 2,555 hours of donated labor saved nonprofit organizations more than $63,000.

“We could not be more proud of what we accomplished. Our volunteers learned to give back to the community and freed up staff at local nonprofit organizations,” said Mackenzie Hunter, OSV director. “It doesn’t end that day, either. Some students keep volunteering at these agencies and others go on to become leaders in our Alternative Spring Break projects.”

UT Dallas student volunteers Caroline Dillard (left) and Brooklyn Herle add mulch to a newly planted tree.

Isaiah Swann, a neuroscience junior who plays third base for the UT Dallas men’s baseball team, helped plant 107 trees for residents in Oak Cliff. The student-athletes knocked on doors with peers from Jindal OutREACH, the social engagement component of the Naveen Jindal School of Management, in a neighborhood scouted out by the Texas Trees Foundation. If homeowners wanted a tree between the curb and sidewalk or in their yard, student volunteers dug a hole, planted the tree, then mulched and watered it.

“I didn’t know what was involved in planting a tree, but it was a pretty positive experience. People were all smiles,” Swann said. “One woman came over and picked out which trees she wanted. It was a great experience for everyone involved. We got to satisfy a need we didn’t even know existed.”

Delgado, who served in the Army for four years, teamed up with fellow students from the UT Dallas Military and Veteran Center and from the UT Dallas Center for Students in Recovery to visit senior citizens. Seeing his former teacher from J.L. Long Middle School in Dallas was the highlight of his experience.  

“At first, she turned around and acted like she recognized me but wasn’t sure from where,” Delgado said.

But after Delgado introduced himself, his former teacher recalled that she had encouraged him to attend a magnet school because he had been an outstanding student.

“I was able to tell her that she was the teacher who inspired me to learn about math and the sciences. No one in that class ever forgot her,” Delgado said. “Seeing her again was priceless. For me, that epitomizes why people should volunteer. I always get back more than I give.”

Volunteers from the UT Dallas Military and Veteran Center helped clean out a storage closet at Diversicare of Lake Highlands, an assisted living facility in Dallas. The students also played bingo with the residents as part of their service day.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].