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With a Focus on Others, Graduate Lands Campus-Wide Awards

With a Focus on Others, Graduate Lands Campus-Wide Awards

While studying for her degree in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS), Marilu Sanchez—one of the world-changing CNS students graduating this month—dedicated herself to helping others.

Marilu Sanchez (right) helps clean up a garden in San Marcos during a RecSports Civic Engagement trip.
Marilu Sanchez

She spent thousands of hours volunteering: sitting with hospice patients, developing programs for foster children, working on neighborhood restoration projects, and serving the homeless. Because of her commitment to and leadership in community service, she recently received three major university-wide awards, the Edward Guleke Student Excellence Award from the Texas Exes, the Outstanding Student Award from the Texas Parents Association, and the Tower Award for Outstanding Student Volunteer from the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement.

"I definitely feel humbled by these honors," Sanchez says."I volunteer because others provided help that got me to where I am today, and I want to make sure that I am that person for someone else."

Sanchez is the first person in her family to attend college. She arrived at The University of Texas at Austin four years ago from tiny Huckabay, Texas, near Stephenville. Her high school class had only eleven other students, and her first UT chemistry class had more people than her hometown.

"My parents have been so supportive," says Sanchez. "They gave me much more than anyone could teach me because their values and hard work ethic made me who I am."

In addition to her family, Sanchez credits her success to a number of groups and experiences on and off campus. Participating in the University Leadership Network, volunteering off-campus, and discovering the HDFS major in the College of Natural Sciences were all turning points, she says.

The University Leadership Network is a scholarship program that boosts leadership skills and provides experiential learning to 500 entering freshmen, working with them throughout their time at UT. Through her participation in the University Leadership Network, Sanchez interned with UT Rec Sports' Civic Engagement Program. She eventually spent over 3,000 hours volunteering on community engagement projects to clean up flood-stricken areas, help feed the homeless, and bring children on outdoor field trips.

In her outreach work, Sanchez met foster children in group homes who had had few opportunities to explore nature. Compelled to do something about this, she worked with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at McKinney Falls to develop programs in archery, fishing, and even crafting from nature especially for these youth.

Helping end-of-life patients is another passion Sanchez has. At a volunteer fair she attended her freshman year, Sanchez picked up a pamphlet about hospice care that introduced her to opportunities to get involved in Austin. Each year since, she has worked 10-14 hours a week, at first doing clerical work and then spending time with patients, reading aloud and talking, running quick errands, or simply sitting in silence.

"I wanted to give a little bit of comfort to people in their last moments and help with their emotional pain," says Sanchez. "I wanted them to feel like a person rather than a patient."

Sanchez found her third home at UT when she became an HDFS major; she says taking a class in Human Development opened a new world to her. She learned observing children's behavior at the Lab School and is now planning to continue her education and pursue a career as a healthcare professional working with children.

"UT is a great environment for learning, especially if you want to learn to work with children and tailor interactions to their developmental needs," she says. "I know I am going to work with children in my future, and UT has prepared me to do so."

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

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