Students donate to emergency fund and explore student organizations

Nataleah Small

Thousands of students explored hundreds of booths lined outside Gregory Gymnasium on Wednesday to learn more about student organizations, eat pizza and collect free swag at Party on the Plaza.  

Chad Zimmerman, senior assistant director of sport clubs at Recreational Sports, said approximately 25,000 members of the UT community were expected to attend. UT RecSports managed the event, which included a fundraising initiative that allowed students to donate money to play basketball and eat pizza. Organizations also paid an entrance fee to table at the event. 

“It’s been a really good philanthropic opportunity for campus because it supports the UT Student Emergency Fund, which goes back to Longhorn students that can use it for rent assistance, textbooks (and) other emergencies that come up,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said since 1999, Party on the Plaza has donated over $100,000 to the Student Emergency Fund, which is financial aid given to current students in times of hardship. He said RecSports’ fundraising goal was $12,000 for this year.

Amy’s Ice Creams, one of several corporate sponsors, participated in the event this year by giving free ice cream to students. Aaron Clay, the marketing and communications director for Amy’s Ice Creams, said the company’s goal was to hand out 1,200 cups of ice cream. 

Clay said Amy’s is incentivized to sponsor the event, because the money contributes to a good cause, and it helps introduce the company to the student body.

“It’s a way for us to start a relationship with a new student,” Clay said. “When you’re coming to Austin, you have all these choices, but we want them to make the choice to visit us because we came to them.”

Brooke Reaves, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Texas Orator, said she was also looking to engage with new students.

“We want to make this community a space where people from all different walks of life and political perspectives can share their opinions in a healthy dialogue,” plan II senior Reaves said.

Electrical engineering sophomore Zachary Byron arrived and scanned the event map to see where the organizations were clustered. Byron said he attended Party on the Plaza in 2018 but didn’t join any organizations due to time commitment issues.

“I feel like everyone kind of has the time, it’s just that a lot of times, people don’t want to find the time,” Byron said. 

Psychology freshman Catherine Nguyen said she spoke with the Asian Greek life organizations and sampled the offerings of Amy’s Ice Creams at the event. 

“It’s really nice,” Nguyen said. “Everybody’s really friendly, and they just want to give you information about their organization.”