UTRGV Rotaract Club students spend Spring Break volunteering in Brownsville

BY Vicky Brito

BROWNSVILLE – This week, UTRGV students have a wide range of plans for their time off during Spring Break. Some plan to relax, some opt for fun in the sun, and others have decided to volunteer.

Once such group is the UTRGV Rotaract Club in Brownsville, whose members consider Spring Break a time to give back to the community during “Alternative Spring Break (ASB).” Club members volunteered Wednesday at the Brownsville Parks and Recreation Center on East 8th Street, where they led elementary school children in drawing and painting activities, science experiments and other projects.

The Rotaract Club is an international organization whose main objective is community service. At UTRGV, the club is headed by Club President Katellen Gomes, a senior biomedical science major.

The Rotaract Club has three levels of service: high school, college and professional.

“We work together with local organizations and do a lot of fundraising,” Gomes said. “The funds we raise, we donate to nonprofit organizations.”

As part of Alternative Spring Break, UTRGV Rotaract joined forces with Rotaract members from Porter Early College High School and Brownsville Early College High School.

“This event has been going on for four to five years, previously with UT Brownsville’s Center for Civic Engagement and Brownsville Parks and Rec… We didn’t want to see the program die,” Gomes said.

More than 30 elementary-age children participated in ASB activities, offered as a substitute for staying home and watching television.

“We provide activities that are fun and educational. The kids call them ‘fundicational,’” Gomes said.

Up to 20 UTRGV students participated in ASB, along with 10 high school students.

“To be honest, I’ve been doing this for the past five years, the kids expect it,” Gomes said. “It is worth it, because it lets the kids learn.”

Gomes said the elementary-age children always ask volunteers what college is like, and the volunteers are always eager to encourage the youngsters to pursue higher education.

“It’s nice to see how they look up to us. We do this for the kids,” Gomes said.

Mayra Tovar, a junior bilingual education major, said participating in this program helps strengthen her bond with children.

“I can interact with kids of all ages who have different learning experiences,” Tovar said. “So, to get to learn with them, I can use several techniques to teach them.”

Salvador Zavala, a junior at Porter ECHS, said it is his first year participating in ASB.

“It feels really great because we’re doing something really great for the kids,” Zavala said.