Volunteer organization works to change Third Ward reputation
It can be hard to remember the community around UH. The Third Ward is more treated with caution than anything, and its unemployment and poverty rates are double that of the greater Houston area.
The UH Bonner Leaders Program, an organization dedicated to community engagement to solve cultural, economic and social challenges in local, statewide and worldwide communities, is leading Coog City Cares, a new organization that is teaming up with the Metropolitan Volunteer Program and the Center for Student Involvement to plan a MLK Day of Service.
“We are focusing on the Third Ward, specifically access to healthy food, access to quality housing and the challenges associated with living in an area of 46.2 percent poverty,” said biotechnology sophomore and Coog City Chairman Grace Schwarz.
Coog City Cares is currently looking for volunteers to help out at the service event.
“Currently, the most important way UH students can get involved is by voting for our cause on the Kind Causes website, and sharing the link with as many people they can,” said finance freshman and Coog City social media head Brinda Penmesta.
“If we win, we will receive $10,000 which we need in order to make our project a success and provide materials for our volunteers,” Penmesta said.
“After the voting ends, we would love to have UH students volunteer for our cause. The goal is to have 1,000 volunteers, but the more the merrier.”
Penmesta said she has high hopes for the effects of Coog City Cares on the ties between the Third Ward and UH communities.
“Through the Coog City Cares first Annual Day of Service, I hope to see a stronger relationship develop between the University of Houston and the Third Ward,” Penmesta said.
“Our goal is to show UH students the culture and wide range of service opportunities the Third Ward has to offer. Additionally, we’d like for the residents of the Third Ward to understand that UH is here to help.”
The benefits for UH students extend even further, with studies showing that campuses that are better connected with their surrounding community can have a positive impact on the students academically and the community’s economy.
“It isn’t a secret that involved students do better, and why not focus that involvement on helping others?” Schwarz said. “We endeavor for this event to be a landmark in the city of Houston’s service culture history.”
Schwarz said she also hopes Coog City Cares will change the overall opinion of the Third Ward for many UH students and others.
“This event will help me show the peers, family and the city that the Third Ward is my home,” Schwarz said.
“(It) is the first step towards people thinking of Emancipation Park and walking to Frenchy’s between classes instead of the crime rate when they hear ‘Third Ward.’ When I decided to attend the University of Houston, people told me that I wouldn’t be safe. I want to change the perception of my home.”