About 75 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) students spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering at five community service events in and around El Paso County.
TTUHSC El Paso’s Student Government Association (SGA) helped organize the day of service, sending eager students out to neighborhoods and communities to lend a helping hand.
In the far East Side community of Montana Vista, students spent the morning at the fire station helping make and paint address signs for residents. The signs, given to residents at no cost, will make it easier for volunteer firefighters and law enforcement to locate homes in the event of an emergency.
In Horizon City, also in far East El Paso County, students joined community health workers at a free health fair for residents, assisting with health screenings, educational sessions on healthy eating, and family friendly games and activities.
In Northeast El Paso, students helped Veterans Non Profit organize donated clothing and household supplies, to be given to individuals and families in need.
Students also spent the morning at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, a shelter in Downtown El Paso. There, they assisted the Centro San Vicente clinic with health literacy checks to better understand the needs of shelter residents.
And just over the state line at the Ardovino’s Desert Crossing restaurant in Sunland Park, New Mexico, students helped with a story-reading and book giveaway for youngsters from the area.
The service events help TTUHSC El Paso students stay involved with their community as they continue their studies, said Elizabeth McCain, a second-year medical student and community service chair for the SGA.
“It’s easy to become self-consumed while you’re here in medical school and be overwhelmed with busyness,” McCain said. “But this is a way to remember that we are a part of the El Paso community and to give back. I think that gives us perspective as future physicians and perspective as humans as to what’s important.”
As part of the Society, Community and the Individual (SCI) course, first-year medical students at TTUHSC El Paso spend their first month immersed in communities around El Paso, getting a jump-start on their medical Spanish skills while learning about health needs and resources around the city.
Out of that experience, participants in the SCI course and the SGA identified some of the community needs that were addressed during the MLK service day.
After a jam-packed morning of volunteering, the students stopped to discuss and reflect on what they learned. Many from the group then headed back to campus to compare notes and refuel at a pizza party hosted by the Desert Mountain Area Health Education Center.
Lee Rosenthal, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., faculty member for the SCI course, said the service efforts not only help fulfill public health needs, but also are an opportunity for TTUHSC El Paso students to feel a part of the community.
“It was great to have students from across our campus work together with community members from across the country on this national day of service to honor MLK’s legacy,” Rosenthal said. “As much as we gave, it was also a great opportunity for our students to learn more about the individuals and organizations that make up the Paso del Norte community.”
Rosenthal said the discussions following the service are an important part of true service learning that students take part in during the SCI course.
“The real distinction between volunteer work and service learning is that there’s a reflection and a reporting back about ‘What I learned as a volunteer about myself, the world and my profession,’” she said.
Service learning for the campus community will be the focus of the eighth annual Service Learning Symposium Feb. 6.
Photos by Jay Koester, Office of Institutional Advancement.