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Announcements Community Partners Kathy Crow Commons MHPS Commons Reflections

Winding Down 2023 with Engage Dallas

As the fall semester comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to reflect and celebrate. Students have participated in a variety of service projects this semester, serving a total of 1,519 hours, 986 of them being direct service hours in the community. Students had the opportunity to serve with a range of our community partners from After8toEducate to Empowering the Masse to Genesis Benefit Thrift Store and many more.

SMU students volunteering at Readers2Leaders

We heard from a couple of our first-year Engage Dallas Student Directors as they shared what they enjoyed. Hannah Green, our Student Director for Mary Hay Peyton Shuttles Commons, says, “Being an Engage Dallas Student Director has been such a growth experience for me. I love having the responsibility of planning and organizing events that other students can participate in.” When asked about the challenges she faced, she responded, “I think the most challenging part of having this position is the logistical responsibility along with the potential changes in plans that you might have to work around. Considering this, I think one thing that I have learned to develop is a solution-focused mindset.” 

Miles Chen is our student director for Kathy Crow Commons. He said he enjoyed, “… working with our community partners and learning more about what’s going on in the city. It was also really fun getting to serve alongside other SMU students.” A challenge for Miles was “…getting enough students to attend the service events, so I hope more students will learn about and get involved with Engage Dallas next semester! I also hope students will get to see service as less of a requirement, and more of something fun and impactful that they have the opportunity to do!”

Students serving at Austin Street Center for #1Day4Dallas

If you’re looking to get connected this spring, consider participating in an Alternative Break trip, where you can volunteer during spring break and fulfill your Community Engagement and Civics & Individual Ethics Proficiencies and Experiences to graduate. We have trips going out to Austin, Texarkana, and McAllen. We also offer Solo Service where students can serve with our community partners on an individual basis. We thank everyone who participated this semester and look forward to working with you next semester!

Finally, if you’ve ever considered planning and leading service trips like Hannah and Miles, consider applying to be an Engage Dallas Student Director for the 2024-2025 school year. Applications open January 22.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @smu.engage.dallas to stay connected! 

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Announcements Boaz Commons Cockrell-McIntosh Commons Community Partners Event McElvaney Commons MHPS Commons News Reflections

Big iDeas from SMU Students

The 2023 Big iDeas Case Study Competition, hosted by the Housing Unification Board in collaboration with the Office of Engaged Learning and Engage Dallas, was a resounding success with four student projects receiving funding to support a community engagement event with one of their Commons’ Engage Dallas Community Partners. This year a total of $6,500 was allocated to the four winning Commons to implement their pitched events. 

Cockrell-McIntosh Commons received $500 to create college preparation baskets for the students of LNESC who are planning to start college in the fall. SMU students dropped off baskets filled with dorm and basic school supplies as gifts to the students who were attending LNESC’s College Signing Day event. 

Boaz Commons received $1,000 to support the planting of a fig orchard on site with their Community Partner, Our Saviour Community Garden. Boaz was able to purchase a tiller to help with preparing the plots to plant the trees. Nine students attended the planting event where they helped to plant the trees and set irrigation to ensure that the plants would flourish.

Boaz Commons Residents with tiller bought for Our Saviour Community Garden
Boaz Commons Residents with tiller bought for Our Saviour Community Garden.

McElvaney Commons was awarded $2,000 to support Brother Bill’s Helping Hand (BBHH) with implementing their Neighbors Day event. McElvaney was able to sponsor the health and fitness stage where local neighbors were able to attend free Zumba and fitness classes during the event. SMU students served with BBHH staff to help manage the event and ensure that all neighbors had a fun and healthy experience. 

Mary Hay, Peyton, Shuttles (MHPS) Commons took home the grand prize of $3,000 to implement their “Storytime!” event with their community partner, Heart House. MHPS residents led Heart House students in a lesson on one of four stories: Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Coco, and The Little Mermaid. All students got to take home a copy of their book along with a craft that corresponded with their particular story. Manju Warrier, Director of Teaching Programs at Heart House, shared that their “students had so much fun touring the campus, participating in the activities, and interacting with SMU students. We are so grateful for our partnership with Engage Dallas and are excited for future partnership opportunities.”This was the second year that MHPS was able to partner with Heart House to bring students to campus and Student Director, Ruhani Ahluwalia, hopes that the partnership will continue next year. 

Heart House students posing on campus with MHPS Commons residents on campus tour of SMU.
Heart House students posing on campus with MHPS Commons residents on campus tour of SMU.

Engage Dallas would like to, once again, extend their deepest thanks to the Housing Unification Board and the Office of Engaged Learning for a wonderful event. We cannot wait to see what amazing events are dreamed up for next year’s event! 

 

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Announcements Boaz Commons Community Partners Event McElvaney Commons MHPS Commons News Reflections

#TBT… Engage Dallas Has Some “Big iDeas”

This past spring, in partnership with the Housing Unification Board and The Office of Engaged Learning, Engage Dallas hosted the second annual Big iDeas pitch event. Each Commons was tasked with creating and pitching an event aimed at supporting the needs of one of their Engage Dallas Community Partners with three Commons being awarded financial backing to carry out their pitch. For the first time ever, Mary Hay/Peyton/Shuttles Commons and  McElvaney Commons tied for first place with each being awarded $3,000 and Boaz Commons was awarded $1,000 for placing third overall. 

As a first-place winner, Mary Hay/Peyton/Shuttles Commons (MHPS) invited Heart House, an Engage Dallas Community Partner, to campus.  

Heart House children playing games during the MHPS Engage Dallas event.

MHPS, who focuses on Immigration and Refugee Support as their social problem, used their award to facilitate an afternoon of fun at SMU. Outfitted in self-made tie-dye shirts, made with SMU students the week before, 35 Heart House students, ranging from ages 5-13, participated in activities such as a magic show, dance lessons, science experiments, and campus tours during their visit.  

Engage Dallas Student Director, Cydney Curtis, worked with MHPS leadership to organize 33 volunteers who helped throughout the day. MHPS’s Faculty-in-Residence brought his family out to serve, and they led music and dancing throughout the day. Curtis shared, “It was a day of joy and volunteering, and I think that everyone had a really good time… It was a successful event that I believe impacted not only the kids but the residential community as a whole. As we can see from the success of this event, Engage Dallas has the capability to put on large-scale events like this. What it takes is dedication, a lot of advertising, proper communication with your non-profit, and perseverance. I could not have done this alone, but I am very proud to have put it on and to have made what I hope is a memorable weekend in the lives of the kids and the residents.” 

Heart House student painting during the MHPS Engage Dallas event.

McElvaney Commons used their $3,000, first place award to purchase two pallet jacks with built in scales for their Community Partner, Brother Bill’s Helping Hands. Brother Bill’s Helping Hand has been serving the West Dallas community for more than 75 years. Its core programs include a grocery store, where neighbors have access to healthy food, access to quality healthcare for the uninsured, and education programs that include English classes, computer courses and fitness programs. The new pallet jacks are able to help them process and sort donations quicker and with more ease. 

Boaz students at CitySquare to drop off their donation and sort food items for the week.

To support the work of their Community Partner, CitySquare, Boaz Commons was able to purchase $1,000 of meat to stock CitySquare’s food pantry. CitySquare is a broad nonprofit organization that offers a comprehensive array of social services that address the four key areas related to the persistence of poverty: hunger, health, housing, and hope.  

Boaz Commons Engage Dallas Student Director, Jonathan Liu, shared “CitySquare was an amazing experience. We were able to help restock CitySquare’s food pantry for the next week with the meat that we had brought the day before, as well as help restock produce for the next week”. 

The Big iDeas pitch competition was a huge success this year and we cannot wait to see what new big ideas come out of next year’s competition. 

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Announcements Armstrong Commons Boaz Commons Cockrell-McIntosh Commons Community Partners Crum Commons Event Kathy Crow Commons Loyd Commons McElvaney Commons MHPS Commons Morrison-McGinnis Commons News Reflections Virginia-Snider Commons Ware Commons

That’s a Wrap: Spring Semester in Review

The spring semester of 2022 took off with a bang and is ending with a sprint. Sliding into graduation season and the end of classes, it’s important to look back and remember all the things we’ve accomplished so far. Engage Dallas has connected to the community in dozens of ways this year, so here’s a run-down for what we’ve been up to in Dallas since the start of the semester.

In January, we announced 16 new community partners (that you can read about here). Starting off the year strong, our new and former partners collaborated with all eleven of SMU’s Commons to foster engagement between SMU students and South and West Dallas Communities.

Engage Dallas student volunteers during park clean-up

Our first service day was with the Trinity River Audubon Center. Members of Kathy Crow Commons started the day learning about the environmental history of Dallas, particularly the prominence of illegal dump sites in minority communities. Afterwards students got to help propagate native Texas plants on the Trinity River grounds. Students walked away having learned about both the people and plants in the native Dallas community.

Engage Dallas students volunteer with Rebuilding Together NTX

In late February, Groundwork Dallas provided all the tools and equipment for students to participate in a park clean up! Engage Dallas and Kathy Crow partnered with the nonprofit to clean up a South Dallas park. Students got to serve community needs by participating in different activities around the park based on their differing skill levels to help make the park a better place for South Dallas residents.

Engage Dallas students volunteer gardening

To kick off March, Ware Commons partnered with Rebuilding Together NTX through Engage Dallas to bring services to an elementary school in South Texas. Rebuilding Together NTX has been a longtime community partner with Engage Dallas, with a mission to help “repair homes, revitalize communities, and rebuild lives,” by providing health and safety repairs. For this service day, students got to assist in the building of a garden for Richard Lagow Elementary School.

On March 6th, Cockrell-McIntosh visited the STEM Center of Excellence at Camp Whispering Cedars and worked with the Girls Scouts of North Texas. SMU students volunteered helping 5th and 6th graders with science demonstrations and activities around the camp.

Engage Dallas students volunteer gardening

“I helped the girls with chemistry and I really loved to see their reaction to the experiments… it just warmed my heart,” said Cockrell-McIntosh Student Director, MacKenzie Thierry.

Another way to get involved on campus is through our general engagement events. In March, Kathy Crow hosted a Flowerpot Paint Night with Engage Dallas. These events are designed to bring students together in a way that encourages involvement and awareness of the prevalence of social problems and their intersectionality, much like our service days.

“Attendees painted flower pots and planted seeds for flowers! We talked about the importance of home gardens – did you know that having a home garden or a lawn full of indigenous plants helps combat the increase of temperatures from climate change? The concrete of modern cities and towns retains heat and the presence of home gardens can help combat that,” reflected Student Director Lilly Chapman.

On the last day of March, SMU’s Boaz and Kathy Crow Commons got to help Restorative Farms in their mission to “foster a vibrant and viable community-based urban farm system in South Dallas.” For this service event, titled “Smoothie Day” students got to participate directly in the activities that go into upkeeping sustainable community farms, and drink smoothies too!

“Everyone was able to help out at Restorative Farms with the jobs that needed to be accomplished. There were 4 distinct jobs that needed to be done: transplanting (moving younger plants to larger pots), making mini-hydroponics from plastic bottles for an upcoming middle group later in the afternoon, alternate planting which they alternate planting lettuce and radishes in their signature grow boxes and putting labels on bags for their CSA (community supplied agriculture) boxes to sell to their customers,” said Student Director Lilly Chapman.

Service events are about service, but they are also about connection. SMU students have the opportunity to connect with people and resources across Dallas, as well as with community leaders here at SMU. “Everyone had enjoyed the service event and would like to do more in the future. We were able to connect with the KCC’s FIRs, meet Dr. Lynch, and learn more about Restorative Farms,” said Chapman. Of course, no smoothie day is complete without a good smoothie! These tasty treats were offered to students as well as members of the community.

“Everyone enjoyed Lilly’s smoothies which were amazing. She used a lot of great ingredients including fresh fruits (bananas, strawberries, and blueberries)… I think everyone also had a good time as well learning about Restorative Farms,” said Boaz Student Director, Jonathan Liu.

Engage Dallas students volunteer with Empowering the Masses

McElvaney Commons also put on a General Engagement event on the final day of March. The Residential Community Director (RCD) for McElvaney, Maya Reeves, gave “a wonderful presentation on mental health and healthy alternatives to deal with stress”, remarked McElvaney Student Director, Sabeen Baledina. Students “drank boba, ate donuts, made sugar scrubs, and laughed all throughout the evening. It was truly a wonderful event and I can’t wait to plan more just like it!”, reflected Baledina.

The service hour thermostat in Ware Commons

In April, students from SMU’s Ware Commons worked with Empowering the Masses to provide resources for over 162 families.  By packaging resources for transport, Ware students got to work towards their 400-hour community service goal.

“The picture of the ‘thermostat’ is a poster put up in Ware. Every service event this academic year in Ware is going to count toward our 400-hour goal. Everyone that participates in any of the service events will be invited to get treats as prizes when one of the goals is met (60% is an Ice Cream Party and 100% is a Pizza Party).” said Kirk Thomas. Ware was able to reach their 60% goal of a collective 240 hours of service.

Reflecting on the 2021-2022 year, Student Director Jonathan Liu said, “The most impactful experience with Engage Dallas was #1Day4Dallas back in the Fall semester. I was working with other Boazies that were also interested in service and at the time did not really know any of them, but I was able to build community with them as a Boazie and as a volunteer. I got to meet several Boazies that… include Sameet (my current commons council president) and good acquaintances of mine to this day.” In spring 2022, Jonathan took his involvement to the next level and became the student director for Boaz!

Engage Dallas’ community service events have continued to offer students the opportunity to serve the South and West Dallas communities. Service has a lasting impact…not just a day, but a lifetime. If you’re looking for opportunities to get involved, event lists and registration can be found on the Engage Dallas website. Be on the lookout for events in the fall. We hope to serve with you soon!

 

 

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Announcements Armstrong Commons Boaz Commons Cockrell-McIntosh Commons Community Partners Crum Commons Event Kathy Crow Commons Loyd Commons McElvaney Commons MHPS Commons Morrison-McGinnis Commons News Reflections Virginia-Snider Commons Ware Commons

#1Day4Dallas a success in inaugural year

Engage Dallas hosted its inaugural Residential Commons Fall Day of Service, #1Day4Dallas, on Saturday, October 16th.  

Each of the 11 Residential Commons were represented with over 100 participants serving at 8 different locations around South and West Dallas: Rebuilding Together North TexasNorth Texas Food BankHeart HouseRestorative FarmsSMU College Access Programs, The Senior Source, and Voice of Hope. Collectively, participants contributed over 500 hours of service and engagement during #1Day4Dallas. 

Kirk Thomas, who serves as the Student Director of Ware Commons, was a leader in the planning for #1Day4Dallas. He described the experience of seeing the event come together as a thrill. 

“Seeing 1Day4Dallas come together for the first time in Engage Dallas’s history after weeks of planning was electric, like the feeling of weightlessness on a rollercoaster,” said Thomas. “Not only was it fulfilling being a part of meaningful community service work to help our neighbors in Dallas, but having that feeling amplified knowing that all across Dallas, SMU students were doing projects anywhere from home repairs to planting fresh vegetables in a community garden. Personally, I care because in doing these projects, we are able to create a sustainable cycle of people helping people. The more communities and neighbors we support and build up, the better off they will be not just today, but for tomorrow also.” 

Kirk and his fellow Ware students served with Rebuilding Together North Texas for #1Day4Dallas, where they helped to remove carpet and place wood flooring in the home of a West Dallas resident.

A student participant shared, “It was a wonderful experience to finally volunteer and directly serve another community.” The impact service had on students was tangible throughout the day. Engage Dallas is excited to continue to serve our Dallas neighbors. Students who remained on campus served our community through The Not So Big Event, hosted by SMU Big Event in partnership with Tango Tab.

Thank you to all students, faculty, staff members, and Community Partners for engaging with us through #1Day4Dallas. Please visit our website, www.smu.edu/studentaffairs/engagedallas, to learn more. Contact us at engagedallas@smu.edu. Follow us on Instagram at @smu.engage.dallas. 

 

Engage Dallas is a place-based community engagement initiative via SMU’s Residential Commons to address community needs focusing on South and West Dallas. The initiative is a long-term, university-wide commitment led by students to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to positively impact the community. There is equal emphasis on campus and community impact stemming from the initiative.