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MLK Day of Service: A dream of giving back achieved


President Renu Khator addresses students as they spruce up the interior of a building. | Kayla Stewart/The Cougar

Students layering fresh paint on old walls and polishing windows to a shine while cheering on fellow volunteers could be seen throughout the city during the MLK Day of Service on Saturday.

Cougars helped out with different Houston organizations including Forge for Families, Generation One, the Houston Food Bank, the Houston Public Library, Interfaith Ministries and the UH Office of Sustainability.

Cougars with big hearts decked out in red and mobilized to help the surrounding community, joined by members of the community from children to the elderly.

“I volunteer with various community groups in the area already, and I hope that people that are volunteering for the first time today really make an effort to (make) giving back a part of their daily lives,” said public health graduate student Sugun Ilori.

Volunteers showed up for both the morning and afternoon shifts to complete tasks like painting walls of community centers, preparing backpack lunches for unprivileged kids and delivering meals to neighboring communities, spending between three and six hours helping the selected areas in whatever way possible.

“I try and remain humble — it’s extremely important to always remember where you came from, and to go back and help the people that helped pick you up once you reach a certain level of success,” said construction management junior Alex Sem.

The motivation to help came from an urge to give back, voiced not only by Sem, but also by President Renu Khator.

“I asked our students why they are here, and they said that they are here because they want to make sure to give back to the community and show the University of Houston in positive manner,” Khator said.

“We are all fortunate in life in many ways. It’s time that we think about giving back… Always know that you are not alone in this journey, and you have an obligation to help those who are behind you.”


One task students took on was polishing windows. | Kayla Stewart/The Cougar

UH anticipated a high number of volunteers for this year’s Day of Service, but its aspirations don’t stop there. Students were challenged by the participating organizations to continue Day of Service activities beyond Saturday.

With a required volunteer commitment of around 10 hours per month, most organizations are flexible.

“We want our volunteer numbers going into the thousands, and we know that (students) can do it,” said Center for Student Involvement Associate Director for Leadership and Civic Engagement Stephanie Schmidt.

The Day of Service may be over, but UH student groups are always working on projects within the Houston community. For more volunteer opportunities, visit

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1 Comment

  • Shining windows is a good service, but providing a parking space would be a better service to the students since thousands of students suffering 4 days in a week because of parking lots. Why not daily cougar doesnot make any news about it. Please go to parking lots and see how people suffers.

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