UTSA and Spurs work together to improve the community

The Spurs-affiliated, non-profit organization Silver & Black Give Back has selected four UTSA students to participate in their Team Up Challenge Scholars program. The program, which began in September, features 16 students from four San Antonio universities. University students, called “scholars,” are selected based on their superior leadership abilities. UTSA students mentor younger students to improve the San Antonio community.

The Team Up Challenge, offered to local K-12 schools, is a service learning program that helps students apply learned classroom material in ways that benefit the community. Local students sign up through either a class or club and, if accepted, join 20 other semi-finalist groups. Teams receive a $2,500 seed-fund to create a project that benefits the community or to further develop an existing project. The projects address five categories of service: arts & culture, education, environment, health & wellness or uniformed services. At the program’s end in April, groups are selected as Team Up Scholar Champions; each are awarded $20,000 to continue their projects.

The four UTSA students selected as Scholars — Fedra Chapa, Joey Cortez, Jose Medellin and Zacharee Ramirez — mentor to K-12 students as they develop their year-long community improvement projects. The program mentors will motivate students to stay in school, improve their self-esteem and set career goals.

Finance major Zacharee Ramirez partnered with Lowell Middle School’s Safe Optimal Learning Environment (S.O.L.E.) Mates, a project that pairs students with special needs children to address the challenges they face.

“I had worked with Special Olympics in high school but nothing really at this level of mentorship,” described Ramirez. “The kids open up to me, ,and we are on a first name basis.”

Junior Jose Medellin partnered with the International School of the Americas Social Entrepreneurship project. “Seeing them motivated to help the community is really cool,” said Jose. “It motivates me.”

Medellin’s project has students building a community garden and selling T-shirts and buttons to raise awareness for a greener community.