Serving the community, the world and tacos

N-Bennion-Center Colby Patterson
Students gather in the Bennion Center yesterday afternoon for free food and to learn about service opprotunities in the community. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Students gather in the Bennion Center yesterday afternoon for free food and to learn about service opprotunities in the community. Photo by Brent Uberty.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the Bennion Center hosted an open house event to inform U students about the various service and volunteer opportunities available at the U.

Dozens of interested students came to enjoy free tacos and cake while interacting with the Bennion Center’s student leaders and staff members. Several of the organization’s programs, such as the Service House and the America Reads program, were represented with tables and displays.

Earlier this month, the Bennion Center helped coordinate 167 students who participated in the Alternative Spring Break program. Students spent their vacation engaged in service to learn more about the local culture and serve the community in 13 different locations in the United States and Canada.

Mariah Tuzar, a freshman in biological anthropology, was one of 30 students who spent their Spring Break in Costa Rica. Students visited coffee farms but also had the opportunity to go zip-lining and hike in the cloud forest reserve.

“My favorite part was working in the Los Tornos community. I was able to help make their community center better and play with the kids there,” Tuzar said. “It was awesome to see how happy they were with us there helping them.”

During the last academic school year, volunteers associated with the Bennion Center provided more than 168,000 hours of service. The Bennion Center has also provided an estimated $30,000 in student scholarships during the current academic year. This number dropped from the 2012-13 academic year when $53,350 was awarded in student scholarships, which fluctuates according to individual donors.

“Scholarships at the Bennion Center are given to volunteer student leaders with expressed financial aid. For this reason, the amount varies by year based on the needs of our students,” said Lacey Holmes, the public relations coordinator for the Bennion Center.

While students are encouraged by the possibility of a scholarship, this is not the driving motivation for most student volunteers.

“I first came to the Bennion Center because I needed volunteer hours, but I stayed because this was the first place on campus that it felt like a home. Now I live in the Service House, so I actually have a home!” said Gina Allyn, a sophomore in exercise and sport science. “Over the past year, service has become not about checking boxes for me anymore, but something that I want to do and something that I need to do to feel fulfilled.”

a.lillie@chronicle.utah.edu