O-Week concludes with outreach

After a week of activities to better acquaint themselves with Rice University, the Class of 2019 concluded O-Week with the annual Outreach Day.

Sponsored by Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), Outreach Day gives students an opportunity to make a positive impact on the Houston community by engaging in volunteer activities throughout the city.

“Students spend a week during O-Week falling in love with Rice – the traditions, their colleges, this campus, their classmates,” said Kelly Windham, associate director of programs and partnerships for the CCL. “We have the really unique opportunity at the Center for Civic Leadership to introduce them and inevitably allow them to fall in love in the very same way with the Houston community.”

Windham said the CCL partners with organizations outside of the “Rice bubble” so students can participate in experiential opportunities to learn about themselves and the community in tandem.

“We see the community as an incredible resource with incredible things to offer and amazing goals,” she said. “We have the opportunity to introduce our students to those community partners and allow them to engage them in a way that meets these community goals.”

This year the day’s activities focused on a single cause – hunger. The event kicked off with a session that provided education on the issue of hunger and remarks on the importance of service by Rice alumni Jim Day ’78 and Amy Altchuler ’12.

For the day’s activities, the CCL partnered with four organizations: Stop Hunger Now, which operates meal-packaging programs in the U.S. and abroad and educates volunteers about hunger and inspires them to help end it; Target Hunger, one of Houston’s largest organizations providing direct food distribution to seniors, children and families who face the risk of going hungry every day; Houston Food Bank, which provides 59 million nutritious meals to food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers and other agencies and offers nutrition education, assistance with food stamp applications and hands-on job training; and Neighborhood Enrichment Xchange (NEX)/Last Organic Outpost, which provides youth-education programs, career development, access to affordable housing and community development in urban environments.

The day included packing meals for Stop Hunger Now and the Houston Food Bank, packing meals for senior citizens and weeding a community garden for Target Hunger and weeding and preparing beds and seedlings for a community garden for NEX.

In addition to 358 new students, there were also 11 CCL staff and 20 undergraduate and graduate student leaders who contributed their time. Based on those numbers, the value of the service was $28,778.22, according to Independent Sector for Texas. At Houston Food Bank, the volunteers packed 1,800 boxes, equivalent to 45,000 meals for Houston seniors, and at Stop Hunger Now, volunteers packed 15,000 meals. At NEX/Last Organic Outpost, Rice volunteers prepared and seeded a city lot that will provide fresh produce to 500 residents of the Fifth Ward per month.

Caroline Lee, a Jones College freshman, and Iris Gau, a Duncan College freshman, decided to become involved with Outreach Day after participating in Urban Immersion, an annual summer program sponsored by the CCL that introduces incoming students to the principles of critical service-learning and to the city of Houston.

Lee said all of the spots for Outreach Day volunteers filled up very quickly, and she said she is happy to see the spirit of volunteerism thriving at Rice.

“I really want to be a part of that,” she said.

Gau said that service has always been a big part of her life but saw Outreach Day as more than just volunteerism.

“It’s not only a great way to do service, but to also learn about Houston,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity to meet individuals who have shared interests about serving the community.”

Windham said, “We hope this opportunity and the focus we’ve created with hunger and food insecurity will allow them to have a similar experience and similar dialogue that they can bring back to campus and engage for the next four years at Rice. We see today not as one day of service, but day one of students’ engagement with the Houston community.”

For more information on Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership, visit https://ccl.rice.edu/.




About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.