Panel considers available volunteer options

Omar Gamboa

While the UT campus is home to numerous volunteer organizations, a Thursday evening panel served to help students select their membership options.

The UT Student Volunteer Board held its monthly first-Thursday event allowing service leaders to describe their organizations to attendees interested in learning more about the groups. Volunteer Board Communications director Thomas Macalik said this month’s event focused on community service for the UT and Austin community. Engineers for a Sustainable World, the ONE Campaign and several Native American aid organizations presented at the event.

“These panelists were only a portion of the activists we’ll bring out,” Macalik said. “We’re just an umbrella here to host them.”

Engineers for a Sustainable World president Zachary Wilhoit said today’s biggest issues in sustainability involve waste. Electronic waste such as discarded computers and energy production are the main issues that need to be solved, he said. A successful solar panel project conducted by Wilhoit is one of the recent solutions.

“It was either ‘somebody needs to do something about this,’ or ‘I need to do something about this,’” Wilhoit said. “I chose the second mentality.”

While mostly a hands-on group, Wilhoit said anyone outside of engineering could be active in sustainability.

UT chapter president of ONE Campaign, Ana Laura Rivera and membership director Bianetth Valdez said the organization aims to ease extreme poverty and famine. Valdez said people should have an attitude of innovation toward their community.

“Our generation has a lot of power due to social media, similar to the youth in the Vietnam era and the civil rights movement,” Valdez said.

Shannon Speed, assistant vice president of Community Engagement, spoke of community service as well as her anthropological work in indigenous studies. She said there are a number of Native American organizations needing attention because their employment and University enrollment is extremely low.

Speed also said she traveled to southern Mexico to provide aid for area residents before coming to Austin eight years ago. She said she wasn’t immediately involved in the Austin community, and that prohibited her from fully enjoying it.

“It’s not about finding something to do — it’s about finding something that nourishes you,” Speed said. “There are so many benefits from being involved with your community. I’ve learned that to get the most, you need to always be a student.”