The Center for Community Engagement hosted its last Front Porch Gathering (FPG) of the Spring semester on April 13th, 2023, in collaboration with the Dove Springs Proud neighborhood organization. At this Front Porch Gathering, the CCE, UT staff and faculty, community friends, and members of Dove Springs Proud came together over a delicious home-cooked barbecue catered by Mr. Charles C. White. To be inclusive toward a wider group of community partners, this event was held south of the river, in the Dove Springs Community, at the REAL Learning Academy’s William Cannon campus.
The CCE is committed to its mission of advancing programming guided by the community to foster equitable community relationships with institutions, and the topic for this Front Porch Gathering came directly from the CCE’s community attendees. Based on the feedback collected during October 2022 Front Porch Gathering: Revisiting Priorities to Ensure Successful Community Partnerships and Dove Springs Proud Leader Mr. Ricardo Zavala’s interest in continuing a relationship with CCE/UT, this Front Porch Gathering introduced the community to the CCE’s Student Engagement Program.
The evening kicked off with opening remarks by Mr. Zavala and a prayer by Tashara Angelle. After Mr. Zavala spoke, one of CCE’s directors, Stephanie L. Lang, introduced herself and her colleague and fellow director, Amory Krueger. Amory spoke about various volunteer projects UT students have contributed to through her office and her office’s big annual volunteer program, The Project. After being introduced to the Student Engagement Program offerings, attendees were separated into breakout groups to discuss their experiences with UT student volunteers and how student volunteers might support community needs in their neighborhoods.
After ample time discussing community priorities for volunteers, the breakout groups shared the highlights of their discussions. Based on the feedback gathered from the breakout groups, most attendees had previously worked with UT student volunteers and reported having positive experiences.
The attendees were curious about how they might enlist the Student Engagement Program to assist them with finding volunteers for their community projects. The attendees stated that their neighborhoods sought volunteers who could assist with restoration and clean-up initiatives, beautification work, and youth-based projects. Additionally, some attendees spoke about the need for student volunteers to help with ongoing projects such as distributing food donations, registering people to vote, and helping tutor high school students with their college applications. When asked about concerns about working with UT student volunteers, the attendees stated that though they would work with UT students or the Office of Student Engagement, they wanted to ensure that the relationships between the office and the community initiatives were sustainable and ongoing.
At the end of the evening, Mr. Zavala reiterated the importance of sharing resources with other Southeast and East Austin community members. He also stressed the necessity of working together in the near future. Stephanie Lang closed the event with an open invitation for attendees to participate in the Community Driven Initiatives storytelling project.
Those who wish to have their history recorded can visit the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building (1191 Navasota Street, Austin, TX) on the second Thursday of every month between 11:00 am – 1:00 pm to share a personal story (up to 20 minutes) about their community. These stories can be personal, political, or simply a happy neighborhood memory. To participate in this initiative, make an appointment via email (email@example.com) with the subject heading “Thursday Storytelling – [Your Name].”