TSTC Students Give Up Spring Break to Volunteer
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Spring Break meant something different to a group of students from Texas State Technical College.
Members of the TSTC Service Squad spent the first part of their break at the Harlingen Humane Society volunteering their time to doing everything from walking and bathing the animals at the shelter.
Student Government Association Treasurer Christopher Martinez said helping out always benefits the community.
“Being involved with service work helps build character, strong leadership skills and gives a person gratitude knowing they are doing something positive,” Martinez said. “Being a volunteer is also important because it helps you add definition to being a role-model for the younger generations, especially the kids.”
Supervisor of Student Activities Belinda Palomino said the Service Squad takes on a project every month and the Harlingen Humane Society has become their annual Spring Break activity.
“I was looking for the perfect project during Spring Break,” Palomino said. “After a little brainstorming, some Service Squad members told me they wanted to something that allowed them to be outdoors. And what better way than spending time with our furry friends.”
The Service Squad is a volunteer group on campus made up of students and employees whose mission is civic engagement.
“Our goal is to get students involved in our community by volunteering in different service projects and to teach students skills that can be used after they graduate or transfer to a four-year university,” Palomino said. “Since the fall of 2012, we’ve grown from 50 members to 120 members today. It’s very gratifying to see students interested in volunteering.”
For a couple of hours on Monday, volunteers spent their time at the Humane Society walking dogs, bathing them and helping clean around the shelter.
But this is just one of many projects the students have taken on this school year.
During the fall semester, students took part in National Make a Difference Day and partnered up with Keep Harlingen Beautiful and the city of Harlingen to beautify several parks and neighborhoods around town that needed the facelift and plant flowers and trees at parks and schools.
The Service Squad has also taken part in Habitat for Humanity, Feast of Sharing, volunteering at nursing homes and around campus. One of their bigger projects coming up is the Spring Litter Bash.
“It's important to instill volunteerism in students because it plays a huge role in developing their morals and values,” Palomino said. “They are exposed to a different environment that they might not usually deal with. After each one of our community service projects, we get the students together and reflect on their experience and what they got out of it. It also brings our TSTC community together for one common goal: improve our community and make some positive changes.”
Service Squad members must complete 40 hours to graduate from the program. Their hours also count toward the President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national recognition for their hard work that comes with a signed letter from the President of the United States.
“When they come back with the required hours for the PVSA (President’s Award), it feels great to them and us,” Palomino said.
Martinez said volunteering has helped him and other students learn outside of the classroom.
“You learn how to be appreciative of what we have that others don't,” Martinez said. “I've learned to keep my values in mind while making better decisions not only for myself but for everyone in the community especially my family.”