New students serve beyond hedges
Published: Saturday, August 18, 2012
Updated: Saturday, August 18, 2012 16:08
After learning about life inside the hedges during Orientation Week, on Aug. 18, new students will have the opportunity to give back to the community outside the hedges. Approximately 425 students will volunteer with 17 different organizations in Houston as part of Outreach Day.
This day of service, which dates back to 1995, sends students to work on projects in Houston varying from painting at a community homeless shelter to activities with children at the Houston Zoo, according to the Community Involvement Center website. Currently, three outreach days occur each year: during Orientation Week, in the fall and in the spring, CIC Director Mac Griswold said. The CIC sponsors O-Week Outreach Day while Rice Student Volunteer Program organizes the fall and spring events, Griswold said.
The CIC has approximately 200 community partners in Houston who were all invited to participate in Outreach Day. The CIC then selected projects that covered a wide range of social issues and types of direct service, according to Griswold.
New students were able to register online for the various sites throughout O-Week and all of the spots were filled, according to Brown College’s Outreach Day representative Nathan Liu.
The Nehemiah Center
One organization, The Nehemiah Center, requested to be a part of Outreach Day this year after having participated last year, according to Nehemiah Center volunteer coordinator Bob Shimp. The organization works to empower young children to realize their full potential, Shimp said. To do this, they offer several programs including after-school tutoring for kindergarten through eighth grade, a pre-K program and college prep, he said. The Christian-based, non-profit organization was founded in 1996 and currently helps approximately 130 children in Houston’s Third Ward, according to the organization’s website.
At this year’s Outreach Day, Rice students will work on landscaping projects, preparing the playground for when the children return, Shimp said.
After Outreach Day last year, some students chose to continue volunteering with the Nehemiah Center. In addition to numerous volunteers, about 60 students have work-study jobs at the Nehemiah Center, Shimp said.
Target Hunger is another organization participating in Outreach Day. In the past three years, they have been a site for both the fall and spring outreach days, Target Hunger volunteer coordinator Denice Dean said.
Target Hunger works towards alleviating hunger through providing food and addressing the root causes of hunger, Dean said. The organization creates community gardens, provides senior citizens with food, offers a variety of classes to encourage self-sufficiency in a community and to provide after-school enrichment programming for at-risk students, Dean added.
This year Rice students will be assisting at a food fair hosted by Target Hunger. They will pack and sort fresh produce and distribute it to people who do not have access to such goods, Dean said.
Dean said the staff loves having Rice students come to volunteer.
“The students are always really enthusiastic, and we couldn’t accomplish everything in such a short time without them,” Dean said.
Another organization participating in Outreach Day is the Beacon, a center that provides services for the homeless population in Houston. Brown College freshmen Joyce Ozuna, who chose to volunteer at the Beacon, said she was eager to sign up for a spot at Outreach Day.
“I wanted to be able to serve others in the Houston community, and I think this organization really connects to the Houston community,” Ozuna said.
Founded in 2007, the Beacon serves approximately 600 clients each day, helping meet basic needs like food, clothing and showers, according to the Beacon website. Their mission is to not only provide short-term care, but also long-term solutions that end homelessness and get clients back on their feet, according to the organization’s website.
For more information on O-Week Outreach Day and other ways to volunteer in Houston, go to cic.rice.edu.