And the Winner (Again) is...
Kudos to the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) HSF Scholar Chapter for winning Organization of the Year for the second year running! Competing against many other student organizations, the HSF Chapter was selected for the 2009-2010 award after a previous 2008-2009 win.
This student group is part of HSF’s 26 (and growing) network of chapters across the country that exist to promote academic success and engagement among Latino college students. According to the Chapter’s coordinator, Marlyn Davila, the award was a well-deserved honor. “I was concerned at the beginning of the year because 70% of the members who were active the year before had graduated or transferred,” she says. “I knew I had to set goals in order to see the organization succeed.”
Among the goals was a commitment to increase membership by developing more creative events that would draw more volunteers, help develop their leadership capabilities, and encourage greater student attendance. Beginning the summer of 2009, the Chapter was present at all freshman orientation days to recruit new members and educate incoming students about HSF scholarships and available internships. Importantly, the members who helped with these orientations became the leaders of the Chapter. “I have seen our members grow from shy, quiet students to strong, outspoken leaders who are able to speak in front of large crowds, ask for donations, and address professors with assurance,” says Davila. “I am so proud of all of them.”
In addition to designing and putting on their own events, participation in University-wide events is a criterion for the award. Throughout the school year, the Chapter was highly visible at UHD events, including Welcome Week (they won a prize for being the group ‘that participated the most’), Activities Day, Fall Family Festival, and the President’s Investiture, among others.
One of the events the Chapter is most proud of was Hispanic Awareness Day, which took three months to prepare for and featured mariachis, ballet folklorico dancers, a mechanical bull, food, aguas frescas, and a guest speaker. While UHD paid for the mariachis and dancers, Chapter members were responsible for raising money for the mechanical bull and getting food donations from restaurants. “It was a very well organized and attended event,” boasts Davila. “We plan to use it as a model for a much larger Hispanic Awareness Day next year.”
Under Davila’s leadership, the UHD Chapter grew from eight members to 20, most of whom became good friends during the year, a key, she says, to maintaining strong membership numbers. Cooperating with each other and developing contacts with other organizations on campus were also important to keep participation high and to ensure a successful event.
In addition to supporting the many events sponsored by the Campus Activities Board and conducting regular Chapter meetings, the group also accumulated hundreds of hours of volunteer work for community causes, which earned them second place for completed number of community service hours.
“It was a very busy, but gratifying year,” says Davila. “Every single member has told me the Chapter changed their lives in many ways, including developing leadership qualities, conquering fears, making friends for life, and, most importantly, realizing the responsibility they have to our community. And, really, that’s what HSF is all about.”
Learn more about the HSF Scholar Chapter Network