Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso students cleaned, cooked, gardened and lent a helping hand in other ways at community service events across El Paso County during Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, Jan. 19-21.
The volunteer efforts were part of the Student Government Association’s third annual MLK Day of Service, in collaboration with the Office of Outreach and Community Engagement, the Department of Medical Education and Desert Mountain Area Health Education Center.
As part of the Society, Community and the Individual 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 and learning about health resources and needs around the city. During the course, students spend time with community members and with staff in community-based organizations, gaining an appreciation for public health service.
Out of that experience, the SCI course and the SGA plan events around El Paso County on MLK Day weekend to mark the national Day of Service in honor of MLK. The activity brings students together from across the campus to plan and implement public health interventions to address community issues they learned about during the immersion portion of the SCI course.
TTUHSC El Paso encourages a philosophy of service education, a form of teaching that inspires meaningful community service. More than 175 students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences volunteered their time in activities at six locations. A small group of University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) students also participated, as well as other college and high school students under the direction of the AHEC.
To kick off the weekend’s activities, on Jan. 19 students participated in the Get Up and Go baseball event in Montana Vista, bringing together Montana Vista and Horizon City community members. A group of TTUHSC El Paso students beat a team of firefighters from the area, then the students went on to play a team from BASE Play RBI. Base Play RBI staff were key to organizing this event.
All other events were held on Monday, Jan. 21.
San Elizario: As part of the inauguration of a new community kitchen at the Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Clinic in San Elizario, students organized an event that featured ancestral cooking demonstrations, a free breakfast, nutritional and health information, and fruit and vegetable giveaways. La Semilla also helped organize the day, recruiting Chef Antonio Lopez, who provided delicious and healthy food for all attending.
Northeast El Paso: Students organized and volunteered at a Community Resource Fair for veterans at the El Paso Veterans One-Stop Center. The fair offered health education, veteran resources, health screening, free items and more. The Veteran’s Non-Profit group helped organize this event.
Downtown El Paso: Students cleaned and prepared the Opportunity Center for the Homeless’ and Columban Mission’s community garden for spring seeding.
Fabens: Students organized and volunteered at the Fabens Water Forum, hosted by the Rio Valle Womans club. The forum offered information about healthy water to residents of Fabens and the surrounding communities, some of which rely on domestic wells. UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management and the University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health-El Paso Regional Branch collaborated to organize the forum. Organizers hope this will lead to more opportunities to work together.
Sunland Park: Students organized and volunteered at the Dream Big Reading Event at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing in collaboration with the Sunland Park, New Mexico library. Students read stories, and children from Sunland Park were given free books to promote literacy. Screenings for speech, hearing and language development were offered by the Silva Clinic.
All in all, the weekend gave nearly 500 students and community members a chance to meet together. Hopefully, as with the garden site, the ground was prepared for greater collaboration in the future.
See a photo gallery of the MLK Day of Service events on TTUHSC El Paso’s Facebook page.