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Friday, May 27, 2022 — Houston, TX

Kids go to Project Pumpkin

By Tina Ou     11/4/10 7:00pm

Children in costume flooded Rice with Halloween spirit last Saturday. Project Pumpkin, which took place in the Central Quadrangle, is a Halloween celebration held annually by Rice clubs and organizations for children from Houston.This year, Project Pumpkin was coordinated by Rice Student Volunteer Program members Elisa Zhao, a Hanszen College sophomore, and Dana Zhao, a Wiess College sophomore. RSVP Children's Committee Chairs Melissa Sheng and Wen Zhang, who are Duncan College juniors, helped coordinate the event as well.

Approximately 20 clubs and organizations set up activity-centered booths at the event. Some organizations that attended Project Pumpkin include SER-Niños Charter School, Community Family Centers and Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees Houston. Elisa Zhao said she estimated almost 300 kids attended this year's festival.

Anthony Hasan, a third grade student from SER-Niños Charter School, attended Project Pumpkin dressed as a black-suited Spider-Man. He said this year was the first time he had attended the festival, but he enjoyed all the activities so much, especially the ones involving painting and running around, that he would like to attend again next year.

"I love it because it's fun. I like to do the artwork, and I also like to do the exercises," Hasan said. "I felt very happy doing all the activities."

Luz Hasan, Anthony's mother, said Project Pumpkin was a new and unique experience for her. She found out about Project Pumpkin through fliers her sons' school had distributed. Luz Hasan said that both her sons had a great time, and she hopes to attend Project Pumpkin again next year.

Luis Fernandez, a second grade student from SER-Niños Charter School, said he had never been to Project Pumpkin before this year, but he liked all the activities, especially musical chairs. Fernandez said he wants to be a scientist, so in addition to all the games and the chocolates he received as prizes, he liked talking to Rice students about the programs at Rice.

Rice Pre-Medical Society Co-President Brittany Trentadue said this year was the first time RPMS held a booth. The RPMS booth revolved around a game in which children had to pin organs on a skeleton figure. Trentadue said that Project Pumpkin was a way for young children to participate in safe and fun activities while celebrating Halloween.

"We try to serve as positive role models for them," Trentadue, a Lovett College senior, said. "For the kids, this is an opportunity for teamwork, when they work together, and for accomplishment, when they get prizes for trying."

Children's Defense Fund-Student Health Outreach Co-President Enstin Ye, a McMurtry College junior, said CDF-SHOUT gave out juice and glow sticks to promote health for children and keep in line with the club's message. She said Project Pumpkin was an opportunity for organizations that don't work directly with kids to spend time around children of the Houston community. The activity at the CDF-SHOUT booth was a mummy race, in which children had to work in pairs, with one wrapping his partner in toilet paper. The wrapped "mummy" would then race in a relay.

According to Sheng, popular booths included the bean bag toss, cookie decorating, face painting and games that involved treat giveaways. Sheng said this year's celebration was also exciting because the Humane Society brought along dogs in costume.

Jennifer Villela, mother of a 4-year-old who attends SER-Niños Charter School, said her family enjoyed Project Pumpkin and visited all the booths, but she would have liked some food more filling than candy. She encouraged Rice to continue holding Project Pumpkin and said she liked that Rice students reached out to the community in such a way.

"I think it's a wonderful way of giving back to the community," Villela said. "Some of the kids here might not have safe places to go trick or treating, so this is a great way for them to hang out with friends and get candy."

Trentadue said that Project Pumpkin brought Rice closer to the Houston community while helping children celebrate Halloween.

"I think it's a great way to integrate the Houston community and the Rice community," Trentadue said. "Rice can be kind of separate from Houston at times, so by opening up an event like this, it promotes unity among us."

Zhao said she thought Project Pumpkin was successful this year, with everything running smoothly. According to Zhao, about 300 children and their parents attended, and many Rice students also volunteered at booths.

"It's an opportunity for many Rice students to get involved in a project that inspires children from around the Houston community to pursue higher education," Zhao said. "All in all, it's like a children's carnival, so it's supposed to be very fun, but I think it also has educational benefits. But mostly, it's just for fun.

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