University group helps students counsel children
UH students have taken a new step toward helping the greater Houston community.
Cougars for Kids, one of the largest outreach groups at UH, is a volunteer program sponsored by the College of Technology.
Technology professor Jerry Evans began the program two years ago to help kids at local children’s hospitals in the medical center such as Texas Children’s and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Those participating would become mentors to the children by reading, tutoring or playing games with them and trying to make their lives more comfortable during their stay in the hospital.
After seeing a need for elementary children to be mentored, Evans decided to expand the program. With the help of the Houston Independent School District, half a dozen schools were identified so UH students could help tutor and mentor the children.
Evans said he is looking forward to increasing the outreach to more than seven other school districts this year. He belives Cougars For Kids is a vehicle to make it easier for the students to become volunteers.
“We do not sign them up and take them by hand, they can handle it. (The) students have to take initiative on their own to go and volunteer,” he said.
Evans said he is trying to lead by example by going out and mentoring to children in need.
Evans said he understands that students are busy, but they need to volunteer only three hours a week. He and his team also came up with the Special Events section, where members of the program can volunteer for a special event rather than going to the hospitals or schools.
“There may be a Saturday in a month that there is a breast cancer walk or March of Dimes walk to get involved,” he said. “There is no reason a student cannot volunteer soon after they become a member.”
The program’s numbers have increased from 30 members when it began in spring 2008 to 2,600. Evans said even though the volunteers receive nothing for this, they would unquestionably get a joy from putting a smile across a child’s face.
A new project that is in progress now is the mission to raise money for the earthquake victims in Haiti. The CFK student auxiliary has had about five blood drives this year and recently broke the record of blood donations with more than 70 students who have donated blood.
“With every person who donates blood, that is three people that you can save,” Evans said.
Well-known members of the Houston community, including businessman Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale, have also been involved in CFK. Dean of Technology Bill Fitzgibbon has also been extremely supportive of the Cougars for Kids program.
The program has expanded to UH-Downtown, UH-Clear Lake and the UH System at Sugar Land.
For more information visit www. uh.edu/cougarsforkids.