The Greater Good

Written by: 
Leslie Wimmer
Photography by: 
Michael Clements

This spring, students rolled up their sleeves to help others in record numbers, from campus blood drives to work in communities in need across the nation during their spring break. Also, more than 2,000 volunteers worked on area service projects for The Big Event — the largest student-run service project ever at UNT.

Applying that same spirit of service, a student’s Internet-based nonprofit tutoring business won this year’s first-place prize in the New Venture Creation Contest. And students in a Community and Public Service course during the year learned firsthand how to be change makers by raising more than $31,000 to end hunger.

PACS 3000

The course, PACS 3000, covers the philosophy and practice of community and public service. Students examine the challenges of educating the public about social issues and study ways to engage people to make a difference.

“By the end of the class, what I learned, what everyone learned, was that if you start with yourself and start working a little bit at a time, you can make a difference,” says Heather Quinn, a senior who enrolled in the course, which is offered through the College of Public Affairs and Community Service, last fall. “It was amazing to see what our small class did, and it did make a difference.”

One student organized a car wash, another wore his military uniform and spoke to strangers about donating to feed hungry veterans, others met with corporations to ask for donations. In the end, the money raised went to the North Texas Food Bank, the Veterans Association, Red Cross, the Ashbury Relief Ministry, the Denton Bible Cattle Ministry and SOS Children’s Villages USA, says Brenda McCoy, who teaches one section of the course.

“Students really held each other accountable, applied themselves to the issue, came up with creative marketing ideas and blew us away with what they accomplished,” she says.

April Fehler teaches another PACS 3000 section, and says she was humbled to see how students expanded their boundaries and worked hard to make a difference.

“What I’ve learned in teaching this course is that our students are eager to work on solutions for social issues like hunger, we just have to give them the classroom knowledge and then step out of their way,” Fehler says.

Center for Leadership and Service

UNT’s Center for Leadership and Service organizes events, programs, workshops and other opportunities for students to get involved on campus and learn how to make a difference, including blood drives, large days of service and adopt-a-block programs. And this year 125 volunteers spent their vacation time by participating in 13 alternative spring break trips that included helping children and youth in St. Louis, Mo., rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, La. and preparing and delivering meals with God’s Love We Deliver in New York City.

In March, the center coordinated the largest student-run community service project ever at UNT when it brought the nationally recognized project The Big Event to campus for the second year. The more than 2,000 volunteers from more than 100 student organizations performed three to four hours of service in Denton and surrounding cities.

The projects included gardening, cleaning, painting, working with senior citizens and assisting children at local schools and development centers. Students also put together Be the Match marrow registry kits, which are used to register people during Cancer Awareness Week and throughout the year, says Amy Simon, center director.

“During 2011-12, 1,776 students, faculty and staff registered for Be the Match, and two UNT students were selected as donors,” she says.  The center also works with partner organizations in the community to connect volunteers with service projects and has numerous leadership opportunities for students. Students can join Leadership Impact Boards to plan events on campus, or they can participate in the VolUNTeer League by organizing community service and social action projects.

“The Center for Leadership and Service gets students together with meaningful community service and volunteer opportunities all year long,” says Kirsten Bishop, leadership coordinator in the center. “Students interested in helping the community can volunteer with us in whatever way works best within their schedules. Our commitment is to empower students to make a difference in their community through service.”

Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship

Since 1999, the Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship has been offering UNT students opportunities to learn about opening businesses and to participate in various competitions for start-up funding. While the center is housed in the College of Business, all UNT students can participate in the center’s programs.

One of the center’s competitions, the New Venture Creation Contest, has awarded thousands of dollars in funding to help establish student-run businesses. Forward Tutoring — an Internet-based nonprofit that provides free one-on-one online tutoring, a student-oriented volunteer opportunity database and scholarship listings — won the first-place $25,000 prize in the 2011 contest.

Forward Tutoring was created by students in UNT’s Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science and works in collaboration with local businesses, organizations and talented students. The business was inspired by experiences the students had seeing peers and family members struggle to stay afloat in school. They also recognized the need for a system to make volunteering easier, says co-founder David Chi.

“As opposed to having students pay for tutoring with money, we empower them to pay it forward with volunteer hours,” Chi says. “Forward Tutoring is a platform where learning and serving come full circle, and we’re excited to lead the way in increasing academic success and promoting youth involvement in communities nationwide.”

Along with opportunities for students to find funding for businesses, the Murphy Center helps students become independent, Director Tony Mendes says.

“The New Venture Creation Contest is an example of the tremendous opportunities available for UNT students who want to be in control of their own destiny,” he says. “The job market is tough out there, and resources at the Murphy Center can help students build skills for their future.”

Student Activities

With more than 400 registered student organizations, students from all backgrounds and with all interests have options to make connections and make an impact through the Student Activities office.

Student organizations include academic honor societies and groups dedicated to sports, leadership, community service and different cultures around the world.

“The opportunity to volunteer and be involved on campus helps students see their experience in college as much larger than themselves,” says Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness. “Leadership opportunities also help us see what we can change for the greater good of the community.

“UNT students are very selfless in contributing to service projects that open their hearts and touch the lives of those they serve. It’s a great way to enhance their education and character development.”


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