(Aug. 9, 2017) -- As the summer of 2017 comes to a close, the Roadrunner Pantry at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is filled with students busily working on outreach and marketing to expand services to the UTSA community. The group of 12 energetic incoming freshmen is spending time this summer learning about food insecurity among college students and dedicating time toward promoting the pantry’s efforts across campus.
The students are incoming UTSA freshmen enrolled in the first pilot cohort of Project LEAD. Project LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Academics and Dedication) is one of two UTSA programs funded by the University of Texas System. The goal of Project LEAD is to increase student success and retention for incoming freshmen. The student volunteers earn college credit for their participation.
Rhonda Gonzales, UTSA associate vice provost for strategic initiatives, heads up the summer LEAD pilot program. Incoming freshmen enrolled in the program participate in a college success seminar and attend a history and political science class as well as an academic inquiry class. Additionally, students participate in a service-learning component with the Roadrunner Pantry, making them the first volunteer Roadrunners helping Roadrunners.
“The service learning component has afforded these students the opportunity to gain insight into this initiative to address food insecure students on campus,” said Nikki Lee, UTSA University Center senior associate director of events management and advisor to the Roadrunner Pantry. “Most were not exposed to this concept and all are developing skills in working together to support students in need.”
The students have learned about the important role the pantry plays on campus. They’ve worked on projects to promote the UTSA Ambassador Program and scheduled food drives in various departments. The team also focused on marketing the pantry by making a video highlighting the important service the pantry provides, and creating social media content for the UTSA community.
Through their efforts, the students developed a connection to campus and gave back to the community they will call home for the next four years.
“It’s been a humbling experience to see the impact we’ve had by giving to other students we don’t even know,” said Lonnie Smith, an incoming freshman originally from Hawaii who came to UTSA to study computer engineering.
The Roadrunner Pantry opened in March of this year. So far, it has served more than 1,000 UTSA students and distributed more than 4,500 pounds of food. The pantry is open to all students with a UTSA ID. All members of the UTSA community are invited to contribute to the efforts by donating food, time and money. The Roadrunner Pantry is currently doing a crowdfunding project to raise money during the month of August.
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