Fair joins Longhorns with service groups

Yvonne Marquez

An array of nonprofit organizations and government agencies attended a volunteer fair Wednesday to find students willing to serve the Austin community.

The Volunteer and Service Learning Center hosted 40 organizations on Speedway. Volunteer Center Assistant Director Yvonne Fuentes said the fair was an opportunity for students to talk to the organizations to see if there was chemistry.

“It gives students a chance to explore their interests outside the classroom,” Fuentes said. “Through volunteering, they can either learn new skills or learn about a field they’re interested in but are not sure what the day-in day-out work would be like. So through volunteering, they can figure out if they want to do it for the long term.”

Fuentes said there is not a problem with a shortage of volunteers at UT, but students do not have a lot of time to volunteer. She said the volunteer center has a database online where students can find information on volunteering for nonprofits who didn’t attend the fair.

“The database is a good opportunity for students, so they can search for specific social causes or certain dates for a student-organization service projects,” Fuentes said.

Erika Bitar, Youth Advocate assistant director, said there is a need for volunteers at the program, which offers mentoring services for teenagers on probation. She said volunteers are given two hours of training and devote four to eight hours a month to the program. Bitar said the volunteers are matched with Austin teenagers, many of whom are from South and East Austin.

Psychology senior Felisa Yzaguirre said she wanted to get involved with a long-term volunteer commitment. She said Youth Advocate caught her eye because she could relate to the kids in the program.

“When I was younger, I experienced problems and was in correctional facilities,” Yzaguirre said. “I’m a psychology major, so anything about improving life, I’m definitely in for it.”

Sociology senior Kheri Henderson said she has been volunteering for the Multicultural Information Center since her freshman year and is also heavily involved with Explore UT. Henderson said she was interested in being a Love is Respect peer advocate.

“There are a lot of abusive relationships going on, so it really sparks my interest. I came out to see what it’s about,” she said.