Seeing the red, white and blue decorated boxes filled with treats for troops on the stage of The University of Texas-Pan American's Student Union Theater evoked happier memories for Armando Villa of his military service during the Vietnam War.
Students in the UB Program collected goods for Operation Care Drop, a nationwide program that ships donated items to troops stationed overseas. UB students participated in the local collection event July 6 - sponsored by IBC Bank - for their summer community service project and to celebrate the UB program's 40th birthday.
"The UB Program is very dear to my heart and this care drop means a lot to me as a veteran," Villa said. "I wish we had something like this back in the day. It would've helped a lot of us back then."
Several boxes were filled with prepackaged bags of snacks, travel-size toiletries, batteries, books and a long list of other supplies.
Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president, said he credits the support and loyal spirit of UB students who helped make Operation Care Drop a success.
"The Valley is a very patriotic place, but I don't think the rest of the country understands how patriotic we are down here. It starts with these young students, right from the very beginning," said Nelsen. "I think Operation Care Drop is a marvelous community service project. I am sure there are a lot of goodies collected for our troops by students in the UB Program."
Petra Lopez-Vaquera, UB program director at UTPA, stresses that community service projects such as Operation Care Drop are a huge part of the UB Program.
"Today we are celebrating 40 years with the University and it makes me proud to see that our students care of the importance of Operation Care Drop and the importance on how they're assisting and helping and that they're taking that time to do their part," said Lopez-Vaquera. "We hope our troops can see how much we care about them and about our country."
UB is a federally funded academic enhancement program which has received funding at UTPA for the past 40 years without a break in service. The program serves under privileged, low-income and first-generation students from Edinburg Economedes, Mission and Edcouch-Elsa High Schools and is designed to assist students in developing their potential for educational success beyond high school.
Students in UB receive academic instruction in a number of core subjects and services that include tutoring and mentoring, financial and academic counseling, career information and assistance in completing college entrance and financial aid applications and college entrance exams, among others.
"UB is very important for the University because the students of this program will one day be our future leaders," Nelsen said. "These students care and Operation Care Drop is one way they show how much they do care."