Gators Give On MLK Day
GatorServe Assembles 130 Volunteers for Community Service
By Mike Emery
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day to reflect on the legacy of the late civil rights leader and his ongoing influence around the globe. It’s also a day to help others in need.
Like all state agencies, the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) was closed in observance of MLK Day. Approximately 130 Gators, however, spent their day engaged in community service.
Their volunteer activities were part of GatorServe. Coordinated by UHD’s Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning, GatorServe is a biannual event conducted on MLK Day and Sept. 11. It recruits volunteers from the UHD community, who participate in community clean-up projects and helping Houstonians in need.
During MLK Day 2019, GatorServe volunteers assisted senior residents in the nearby Fifth Ward community. Volunteers assembled at Bryce-Dorian Park for a quick breakfast and to receive assignments. At the park, they were greeted by one of UHD’s newest Gators, Dr. Eric Carl Link, senior vice president for academic & student affairs and provost.
“Today, you represent UHD and you embody the message of Dr. King,” he said. “The community appreciates your time and your efforts today. And our university is proud of your willingness to help others in honor of Martin Luther King.”
Among the seniors who received assistance was Alice “Tweed” Smith, who greeted Gators warmly at her front door.
“You can call me ‘Tweed,’” she said. “And, many of you might not remember this group, but I was the first female member of the band, War.”
Smith joined the popular band (known for hits "Lowrider" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?") in 1979 and appeared on several releases, including "The Music Band." During her time in War, she appeared with the group on television shows such as "American Bandstand" and "The Soupy Sales Show."
Smith then opened her door to Gator volunteers, who proceeded to help clean and organize her home. Other Gators, including student Jason Lillie, assisted in planting flowers for her.
“It’s important to give back and help others,” Lillie said. “It teaches solidarity between the community and the university. This is our city, so it’s good for all of us to learn from these experiences and meet others like Ms. Smith.”
KPRC Ch. 2 covered the volunteer effort, interviewing Smith and students Shay Tatum and Selena Garcia.
“My excitement today is about these lovely people doing a day of service and helping seniors,” she told the KPRC videographer. “What they are doing is more than just a blessing. It’s an enhancement to our lives.”
As volunteers wrapped up their work at Smith’s house, she assembled them in her front yard. Upon their arrival, the veteran singer promised a sample of her talents, and she delivered a verse from Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me.”
“I believe in dreams again,” she sang. “I believe in love that never ends and like the river finds the sea … I was lost, now I’m free … I believe in you, you and you … and me.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 50,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College). In 2018, UHD grew its First Time in College student population by 11 percent and transfer students by 14 percent.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston. It also is ranked among 15 U.S. universities with lowest net price to students (according to the U.S. Department of Education). The University is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.