Students, Staff Help Area Nonprofit Agencies as Viva Volunteers

viva veterans

As part of Viva Volunteer, student veterans and staff from the UT Dallas Veteran Services Center worked with American Trooper, a local nonprofit that serves former military personnel. They sorted and organized clothing and other donated goods.

More than 380 students and staff at The University of Texas at Dallas fanned out across North Texas on Oct. 22 to serve nearly two dozen nonprofit agencies on national Make a Difference Day.

Viva Volunteer, a UT Dallas project organized by the Office of Student Volunteerism (OSV), sent participants to 25 community sites, saving nonprofit agencies nearly $48,000 in service hours.

“It’s exciting that UT Dallas students can join forces to do something positive for the community. They get a break from studying to have some fun and build friendships, while the community partners get the extra hands they need to tackle projects that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to tackle. It’s a win-win," said Mackenzie Hunter, program coordinator for the OSV.

Student organizations and clubs typically gravitate to agencies that reflect their interests.

UT Dallas student veterans and staff from the Veteran Services Center helped sort and organize clothing and other donated goods at American Trooper, a local nonprofit that serves former military personnel.

Students from PRIDE and the Rainbow Guard, two organizations at UT Dallas that support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, rolled T-shirts for a fundraising event at AIDS Arms, a nonprofit that helps those living with HIV and AIDS.

“Getting awareness out for these agencies is why these T-shirts were so important. It was such a simple task, but it made a big difference,” said Andrew Mohammed, a biology and pre-med freshman who volunteered at AIDS Arms.


Temoc poses with staff and student leaders from the Office of Student Volunteerism. From left: Mackenzie Hunter, program coordinator for the OSV; and student leaders Vidyalakshmi Mohanraj and Lilian Zhan.

Delia Castillo-Arellano, an administrative assistant for student development, led a team of students from Sigma Lambda Alpha who worked with teenage girls at Jonathan’s Place, a safe house for at-risk youths. UT Dallas students played volleyball and engaged in ice-breaker games with the youths.

“I felt it was very purposeful to be socializing with the girls. We liked that they wanted us to come back. It really gave me a sense of personal satisfaction, and I like that feeling,” Castillo-Arellano said.

Quang Le, a molecular biology sophomore, enjoyed helping the Plano community theater Rover Dramawerks. UT Dallas volunteers cleaned out storage and janitorial closets, a task that is often difficult to get to when organizations are understaffed.

“I really like physical work, because I can see the impact immediately. As college students, we don’t get to move around very much, so this was exhilarating,” Le said.

Monalisa Amidar, director for the OSV, said area nonprofit agencies are usually surprised at how much work the students tackle in just three hours.

“When we send UT Dallas students, they underestimate how enthusiastic we are. They’re not used to the pace and work ethic our students bring with them. I always tell them, ‘You might want to come up with six hours of work, because they will run out of tasks to do,’” Amidar said.

Some students returned with more than a sense of well-being that comes from serving others. Amanda Karasic, a neuroscience senior, also brought home a furry friend after she volunteered with the City of Richardson Animal Shelter.

“A dog owner had brought in this really cute little dog named Bella that she was unable to care for anymore. She told me, ‘Take care of my baby,’” Karasic said of the 3-year-old Dachshund-Yorkie Terrier mix that she has renamed Bella Viva. 

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].