Texas Border Business
EDINBURG, Texas – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) student-athletes display a commitment to service every day, and on Wednesday UTRGV Athletics was announced as the No. 10 department among all NCAA Division I programs for community service involvement in the Fall 2022 NCAA Team Works Community Service Challenge through Helper Helper.
Throughout the fall semester, the Vaqueros totaled 1,984 hours of community service, contributing to Div. I programs completing 143,234 hours of community service across the nation. UTRGV is the only athletic department in Texas to finish in the top 10, ranking behind Miami, Pittsburgh, North Dakota, Georgia Southern, Bucknell, Louisiana, Georgia Tech, Providence College and Arizona.
In June 2022, it was announced that UTRGV ranked eighth in community service in Div. I in Helper Helper’s 2021-22 Community Engagement Reporter, totaling 2,443 hours of community service through the fall and spring semesters. Eight UTRGV teams ranked in the top 10 of their respective sport. The Vaqueros have consistently shown that connecting with and serving the entire Rio Grande Valley is a priority and something they enjoy doing.
“Once again, our student-athletes are shining as leaders in our community,” UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque said. “To be recognized nationally as one of the top Division I athletic departments in the country in community service says a lot about the young people we have representing UTRGV. I am so proud of and grateful for the giving spirit of our student-athletes, coaches and staff as they continue to #RISEup to help, support and engage with the communities in which we serve.”
The Vaqueros got involved throughout the RGV, from Brownsville where women’s soccer and baseball held free youth clinics to volunteering with the City of McAllen and McAllen ISD. UTRGV Athletics was selected as the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley’s top volunteer organization of the year in 2022. The Vaqueros came up big for families in need as 169 student-athletes participated in the Edinburg Cares Food Drive.
Five teams saw their student-athletes average 10 or more hours of community service during the fall semester – women’s golf (17 hours), men’s golf (13), women’s basketball (12), men’s basketball (10) and women’s tennis (10). The Vaqueros helped others develop their athletic abilities, spending 49 hours with the Special Olympics organization at events such as bocce, floor ball and volleyball practices and competitions. The women’s tennis team also offered free tennis and pickleball lessons weekly at the UTRGV rec center in Edinburg.
From civic and community engagement to children and youth-centered opportunities, UTRGV’s student-athletes went above and beyond to make a difference.
“As the community service coordinator, it’s heartwarming when student-athletes come to me with different ideas and opportunities they want to be involved in. Our student-athletes deserve all the credit for their selfless service to our Vaqueros community,” Coordinator for Student-Athlete Development Julia Perez said. “Finishing 10th in the nation is something they’ve earned through the work they’ve done. Not only are they helping where it’s needed, but they are spreading the culture of #RallyTheValley and #RISEup that have become pillars in our athletic department.”
UTRGV’s women’s golf team accumulated 154 hours of service in the fall semester and the team earned an impact score of 100 from Helper Helper. They assisted five organizations and made a particularly strong impact with Food Bank RGV, where they volunteered every Tuesday and Thursday throughout November packaging food to be delivered to families in need.
“It’s awesome being able to do stuff hands-on at the food bank and physically package the food. You get to actually see how many people are getting helped. I know the whole team feels good about it,” sophomore Edinburg High alum Madi Ozuna said. “Doing community service is important to us because we get so much support here as UTRGV student-athletes. People come to our games and tournaments for every sport and being able to give back to them for supporting us is everything to us.”
Baseball tallied 398 hours as they served eight organizations. Student-athletes went to S.F. Austin Elementary in Edinburg every Monday in September and October to assist with the after-school program. Baseball also collected canned goods and assisted Edinburg Parks and Rec as they loaded and distributed turkey dinners to families and schools around the holidays.
“Those opportunities are a really good experience for me because years ago I was one of those kids in those elementaries, and I didn’t have athletes or anyone come spend time with us. I want to give back to the kids now that I’m fortunate enough to be in the position I am in now,” redshirt sophomore Edinburg Vela alum Isaac Lopez said. “We really got to spend quality time with the kids doing activities and playing games after school. The community is very supportive to our guys all year long and we want to give back to them.”
UTRGV student-athletes participated collectively on School Day presented by Rio Bank to assist as over 2,000 kids from schools across the RGV spent the morning touring the Edinburg campus ahead of watching a women’s basketball game. Over 175 Vaqueros spent time cleaning the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses on National Clean Up Day. Other organizations Vaqueros served include the Edinburg Children’s Hospital, RGV Partnership Association and Texas Regional Bank.
Along with women’s golf and baseball, seven teams surpassed 100 hours of community service in the fall – women’s basketball (219), women’s track & field (196), men’s basketball (174), men’s soccer (165), men’s track & field (140), men’s golf (133) and women’s tennis (114). Even teams that were in-season – women’s soccer (80), volleyball (59), women’s cross country (46), men’s tennis (37) and men’s cross country (29) – dedicated time from their busy schedules balancing school, road trips, practices and competitions to #RISEup and #RallyTheValley.
“Being from the Valley, everybody is like family here and seeing my fellow student-athletes from other places get involved with the family lifestyle down here is awesome,” Ozuna said. “We’re very grateful for everything the community does for us. We’re very prideful about giving back to our community, and having everybody know that it matters to us and being one of the best programs in the nation is the cherry on top.”
Added Lopez: “One of the staples in our baseball culture is ‘committed,’ and the biggest thing is that if our community is committed to us – and they are, they’ve shown us – then we are committed to them. But it’s not just our baseball team that loves our welcoming community. It’s our coaches, our staff, our other sports. We all like to do our part for our community.
“Being ranked in the top 10 in the nation shows that we as a whole are selfless,” Lopez continued. “The success of our programs isn’t the only thing we care about. We have success because of how much our community has our back. We really are a village and it takes everyone to keep the village thriving.”