UTPA helps spruce up Harlingen gateway during Make a Difference Day Oct. 25
Posted: 11/17/2008
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The City of Harlingen benefitted on Oct. 25 from a day's worth of enthusiastic volunteerism by more than 100 students and staff from The University of Texas-Pan American.

During its fourth year of participation in the annual national day of volunteerism - Make a Difference Day - UTPA joined Harlingen Proud and other Rio Grande Valley volunteers to help beautify Harlingen's landscaped gateway into the city from McAllen located off Expressway 77/83 at Dixieland Road.

Overgrown, weedy and hard hit by Dolly, the entrance was identified as needing a significant upkeep by Harlingen Proud, an organization composed of citizens whose mission is to empower and educate the community to clean and beautify the environment and to recycle.

Ines Lucio, a member of UTPA's Leadership Academy and Student Government Association, was one of more than 100 students and staff who volunteered on Make a Difference Day Oct. 25.
Working alongside Texas Master Naturalists and Harlingen Proud volunteers, the UTPA contingent helped clear brush, pull out weeds, and trim back overgrown trees, palms, and other plants. Debris and litter were also removed. According to Nick Consiglio, president of dcnc Marketing and vice president of the Harlingen Proud board, the students' work helped make the project a success.

"They took this project head on and made a huge impact on the look of the area. It looks cleaner and well trimmed. All of the students arrived with positive attitudes and left with them too. We simply could not have accomplished what we did in the time we did without the UTPA students," said Consiglio, who also volunteered on the project. "We are always happy with every volunteer we get, even if it's one but to have 100 on one day was very special."

Students representing a cross section of UTPA student organizations indicated they learned a lot by participating in the project.

Karen Monsivais, a member of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, said she had no idea of how hard it is to keep a city clean and she along with fellow volunteer, Venise Ingan, recognized the importance of teamwork in completing the job.

"The one most important thing I have learned from volunteering is that people working together can truly bring beauty to the community," said Ingan, a member of UTPA's Rotoract Club.

Student Leadership Academy member Vania Barrera appreciated that the volunteer experience offers a chance to test skills she is cultivating as a college student. "Make a Difference Day once again provided me the opportunity to venture into a new environment where my teamwork, communication, and leadership skills were tested. I found it very rewarding," she said.

Student volunteers spent Make a Differnce Day Oct. 25 working together on the annual community service project.
Amy Martin, assistant to the UTPA Dean of Students, who worked with a committee of students and UTPA student development staff to choose and organize the Make a Difference Day project, said the beautification of the Harlingen entrance was chosen for a number of reasons.

"This project has a positive impact on the environmental and aesthetic quality of our public spaces, and also saved the City of Harlingen money in maintenance costs, freeing city and county parks and transportation staff to perform other urgent maintenance. In addition, we hope it impacted our students and encouraged them to have a sincere community commitment, get involved and take ownership in their community," she said.

Sponsors for the Make a Difference Day included the UTPA Student Government Association, UTPA Student Leadership Academy, UTPA Student Union, UTPA Office of Auxiliary Services, UTPA Office of Environmental Health and Safety, City of Harlingen, Keep McAllen Beautiful and Harlingen Proud.

Created by USA Weekend Magazine, Make a Difference Day is the nation's largest single day of volunteerism. Last year, the annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October, had three million volunteers participating in thousands of projects in towns across the country.

For more information on Make a Difference Day, go to