Mayor Fest inspires students to stay in school
Families flocked to attend the Mayor’s Fourth Annual Back to School Fest, held at the Hohfeinz Pavilion and the Alumni center on August 16th. Backpacks filled with supplies, uniform vouchers, and vouchers from Texas Barbers College for free haircuts were given away. In addition, the Athletics department bestowed a free ticket to a UH football game upon each child.
“The mayor had an idea to bring this event to an institute of higher education simply because many of these families who attend these events have never set foot on an actual university campus,” said UH Community Relations Director Susie Molina. “As we prepare them for (going) back to school, they’re here to get immunized, vision screenings, and they’re getting their backpacks to prepare them for back to school in hopes that it would encourage them and instill in them the idea that although they’re here today getting the backpacks, they’ll be here tomorrow as university students.”
The event also gave away underwear and socks, provided by Undies for Everyone. Founder and executive director Rabbi AmyWeiss said they were appreciative of UH for hosting the event.
“We’re all about keeping kids in school,” Weiss said. “People may not think about underwear keeping kids in school, but we feel like if they’re clean and confident they won’t drop out, they won’t be bullied and having it here at UH is just a continuation of that emphasis on college and keeping your eye on the ball and helping them be successful, giving them every opportunity.”
Afterward, families walked next door to the Alumni Center for the exhibit area, where they could get immunized and received vision screenings provided by the College of Optometry, while the College of Pharmacy provided glucose screenings for parents. The event consisted of a partnership between UH, the City of Houston’s Mayor’s Office and Neighborhoods, as well as corporate sponsors including the main sponsor, Shell. It is the second year in a row that the University has participated, with over 200 UH-affiliated students, faculty and staff volunteering for the event
“We’re fortunate that we do have these really nice athletic facilities that can accommodate an event of this size, so it’s really neat and so we’ve kept the majority of it the same,” Molina said. “We’re tweaking it as we go. It can only get better every year.”
In addition, a number of campus organizations and departments such as the Athletics department and the Center for Hearing and Speech Therapy were there to provide families information about the University’s resources.
Management information systems senior Lorena Osorio said she thinks the event is wonderful.
“I mean, it attracts people to look at the University, for kids that want to come here eventually, it gives them an idea of what they’re going to come and see so I think it’s a wonderful experience that they get.”
This is the first time communication sciences and disorders senior Araceli Dominguez has volunteered for BTSF. She joined in along with her organization, the National Student Speech and Language Hearing Association, to give her time to the school.
“My major mostly involves helping people and a lot with children as well, and that’s actually the career that I’m pursuing: pediatric therapy,” Dominguez said. “Our organization is actually pretty active with school. We try to help out a lot. They reward us with points, but we also do it for our school and our organization.”
Osorio volunteered at BTFS last year and said she really liked it.
“Volunteering could make you feel the school’s pride,” Osorio said. “You want to help as much as possible. It’s also very fun to be involved with your school so I don’t mind doing it at all.”
Molina adds that volunteering gives UH students a good opportunity to see a large scale-event such as the BTFS.
“I think it’s just a great opportunity for them to see not only that, but also to give back to be a good representative of this institution,” Molina said. “There’s no better way to do Cougar pride than to give back to the community.”
Osorio adds that one of the perks in volunteering was Shell’s attendance.
“It’s just a good experience to help yourself,” Osorio said. “You do something that gives back to the community and then also it looks good on a resume if you want to put that on there, that’s a perk as well, just to get to know people, just talk to people, it’s great.”
Molina adds that volunteering can also be a great networking opportunity, whether it involves companies like Shell or non-profit organizations.
“You never know who you’re going to be put up next to volunteering,” Molina said. “You may be an accounting major, standing next to the accounting VP for Shell. So you just never know.”
Molina adds that there are always a large number of events being held throughout the year, so students should be on the lookout for volunteering opportunities.
“You feel your school’s pride,” Dominguez said. “You want to help as much as possible. It’s also very fun to be involved with your school so I don’t mind doing it at all. “