More than 115 Students from the Foster School of Medicine, the Hunt School of Nursing and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences volunteered on Saturday, Jan. 16, and Monday, Jan. 18, at a number of community service events throughout El Paso County in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
As part of the medical student group called Community, Action, Research and Engaged Service Collaboration, otherwise known as CARES, TTUHSC El Paso students organize community events that benefit El Paso and surrounding communities. These students volunteer their time while practicing their public health skills and addressing some of the community’s needs.
“For TTUHSC El Paso students, our annual MLK Weekend of Service is an important opportunity to work with and learn from community partners,” said E. Lee Rosenthal, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., CARES Collaboration founding faculty advisor. “Together, we build on our shared resources to promote health and well-being in the Paso del Norte region.”
Dr. Rosenthal said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, planning and executing the events safely was of paramount importance. Students were able to carry on this tradition of service and collaboration by hosting virtual demonstrations and asking community members to wear face masks and remain in their vehicles for drive-through events.
Several events were free to the public. On Jan. 16, families attended a drive-through food distribution at San Juan Diego Parish in Montana Vista.
Clint Independent School District and San Elizario Independent School District high school students and their families participated in an interactive nutrition webinar to learn how to make a healthy after-school snack and on-the-go breakfast.
Activities on Jan. 18 included volunteers and children coloring and learning about how to take care of themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. This event was hosted virtually with local daycare partners, including Bumble Bee Learning Center, Arcoiris Development Center and CriCri Learning Center.
The Canutillo community was invited to take care of their wellness needs with a drive-through food distribution and a mental health-focused virtual talk after the food drive.
Students also helped battle isolation by connecting with senior citizens through a pen pal program. Letters arrived for seniors on Jan. 18.
“The MLK Day of Service events have always helped connect medical, nursing and graduate students with El Paso in efforts to build up our shared community,” said Skye Ariel Schultz, medical student and Medical Student Council service chair. “The global pandemic has created many new challenges, and when challenges arise, it’s important for us to work together and address them head-on.”
Schultz said the MLK Day of Service gives students the opportunity to join forces with the community and meet the needs of El Paso neighborhoods in ways that are safe, effective and useful for residents. She added that the pandemic is not an obstinate barrier, but rather a call-to-action for health care students to use their education and work with community leaders to help the city through a difficult time.
TTUHSC El Paso encourages a philosophy of service education, a form of teaching that encourages meaningful community service. TTUHSC El Paso medical, nursing and biomedical sciences students provide over 19,000 service hours annually.
TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved and understudied.
Check out the photo gallery from the MLK Day of Service: