COSA grant rewards students’ civic engagement

Isaac Serna

This Fall, the UTSA Center of Civic Engagement, in collaboration with District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, announced the launch of the City of San Antonio (COSA) Challenge Grant program.

The COSA Challenge Grant program provides funds, ranging from $100-$500, to UTSA students who want to contribute to the San Antonio community. The grant fund also matches up to $1000 from fundraised money.

A project idea is not the only requirement, the mentorship of a faculty member as well as a non-profit or public sector agency’s sponsorship is necessary to qualify for the grant. This collaboration approach fosters experiential learning between partners.

The initiative formed under the experienced leadership of Councilman Nirenberg.          

Nirenberg recalled, “When I was at a place called the Annenberg Public Policy Center, we had a project called Student Voices… which amounted to dozens of community-engagement projects in each school that were really addressing issues within their communities.”

Nirenberg hopes the COSA Grant Program can challenge the UTSA student body to think of community-service projects competitively.

The majority of the work lies in the students hands, but guidance can’t be overlooked. Faculty members and partnerships with philanthropic organizations provide the means to measure and expand student participation in service-learning projects.

Brian Halderman, the director of the Center of Civic Engagement, encourages students to build relationships with faculty, and advises students to seek out faculty mentors who are passionate about a student’s area of interest to direct those interests in a positive direction.

“UTSA faculty are also members of the San Antonio community, they work with and are part of organizations in the area,” Halderman said. Often times these are the very organizations necessary to make service-learning projects possible.

Halderman advised students seeking a faculty mentor to utiize the Center of Civic Engagement as a bridge.

Since its launch, the Challenge Grant has been well recieved. Halderman explained, “the program received positive reception from faculty who have asked for a program that provides funds for their classes’ service-learning projects.”

Classrooms are not the only group who may benefit. Student groups, such as Greek organizations, are certainly familiar with philanthropic efforts.

Jeremy Mueller, President of TKE at UTSA, explained that Greek-life isn’t exclusive to social events. “Our motto is ‘better men for a better world.’ We like to represent that in every way we can, and one of those ways is philanthropy.”

Vanessa Mussett, Vice President of ZTA at UTSA, commented on the benefits of the program. “Being awarded such a grant could help our chapter excel in our fundraising to reach new milestones,” she said.

The COSA Challenge Grant goals are to enhance student education through community-based learning initiatives, to engage faculty in the mentorship and guidance of student-driven service-learning initiatives and to build relationships with non-profit and public sector agencies.

“San Antonio is a city that needs people who care to step up,” Councilman Nirenberg concluded, “and at the end of day [UTSA students] will have the opportunity to create something that can be added on a portfolio, to create change in the city that you live in and hopefully be inspired to take on a new perspective of what else needs to be done in San Antonio.”