UT students get involved through Project Reach Out

Andrew Messamore

UT students mulched, cleaned and planted seeds of goodwill across Austin on Saturday as part of Project Reach Out, a volunteering event designed to connect UT students with nonprofit organizations in ways that benefit the community, said Albert Ngo, one of the three co-chairs of Project Reach Out.

The biannual event, which has been running for around 10 years, offered seven projects for UT students to volunteer at on Saturday. Participating organizations ranged from Starbright Preschool to the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation. About 200 students took part in the day of service on Saturday.

“It’s a great opportunity to get involved,” said Angela Jeon, co-chair of Project Reach Out. “Volunteering can be a huge commitment for people who often have a lot of things going on, and this lets members bond and give a little back to the Austin Community.”

Project Reach Out specifically benefits students who are often unable to actively search for volunteering organizations by connecting the organizations to them, Ngo said.

“We provided an opportunity for UT students to be able to volunteer with agencies across Austin that they would otherwise never have heard of,” Ngo said. “Most UT students volunteer because their organizations require hours for them, and they never work outside their organizations. For us, we e-mail the organizations directly four weeks beforehand and connect them with a date for students to come on.”

Project Reach Out is part of the Student Volunteer Board, a committee of five students active since 1987 that oversees eight different volunteer programs at UT and coordinates around 8,000 volunteers, according to its website.

“We are the largest and only volunteer organization of our kind on campus,” said executive director of Student Volunteer Board, Kevin Duong. “We enable student leaders to make a difference on campus and enable UT students to serve the Austin area.”

Organizations also benefit from the work of volunteers who are connected to them through Project Reach Out, said Jean Dordek, director and owner of Starbright Preschool, a preschool child center for toddlers that has been working with Project Reach Out for the past 10 years.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Project Reach Out,” Dordek said. “We’ve always been delighted with the students, and I doubt we’d be able to do all that we do without them. They’re very nice, helpful, willing and friendly, and it’s very heartening to see them come out in disheartening times like these.”

Printed on Monday, November 14, 2011 as: Students connect to community through Project Reach Out event