CHS Celebrates Third Year of $100 Solutions
Published December 6, 2022
By Darlene Muguiro
UTEP College of Health Sciences
In early December, the UTEP College of Health Sciences hosted the third annual $100 Solution presentation, where CHS students shared the final results of a semester-long project focused on creating sustainable change in their communities through micro-investments, a concept originated by the international nonprofit The $100 Solution. Community partners from across the region who participated in student projects were also present.
Dr. Carolina Valencia, clinical assistant professor and director of the Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences (BS-RHSC) Program, and Dr. Eva Moya, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Social Work, are UTEP’s lead partners with the group. This year, UTEP received the institutional partner of the year award from the organization, thanks in large part to Valencia’s and Moya’s efforts.
Annually, Moya and Valencia pair students from the BS-RHSC Program and Social Work with community partners to implement projects addressing health-related quality of life issues, using micro-investments of $100 per project. The students first complete a needs assessment to identify gaps, and then create a plan of action. Over the project period, the students collect and analyze data, assess the impact of the project on the community, and present the results. Students also share their thoughts and experiences through a reflection.
This year’s projects served vulnerable populations across several sectors, including elderly Hispanics, elementary school children with special needs, migrant children living in temporary shelters, families living in colonias across El Paso County, families with housing insecurity, and elementary school teachers in need of stress relief. This year, students also identified a need for increased funding for UTEP Social Work student scholarships and the campus’ food pantry. The students successfully raised both funding and awareness among other UTEP students via social media and in-person campaigns.
Another group of students identified an unmet need for recycling education among elementary school students in Horizon. The students also discovered that while the campus had recycling bins, the materials were not being picked up due to lack of infrastructure.
“The next step here is to identify additional recycling services outside the Horizon area,” said Taylor Nunez, senior BS-RHSC major. “We found a couple that actually do pickups in locations outside of Texas, like Mexico and Las Cruces. We’re hoping that since they’re willing to go hours away for pickups in those areas, they’d be willing to come to a place (Horizon) that’s much closer.”
Fellow group member Naomi Navar, a junior BS-RHSC major, added that the staff and teachers were excited about the opportunity to raise awareness among their students. She noted that the group saw increases in knowledge among the children (measured by a pre-and post- survey), particularly about what items were recyclable and which were not.
BSW students Genevieve Villa and Bailie Gokey said that a particularly moving image provided by a teacher at Alarcon Elementary helped them decide what to focus on in their project – a pair of shoes worn by one child, which were literally splitting in two. Alarcon Elementary is in Socorro, a low-income community on the outskirts of El Paso, and teachers reported that many of the children were experiencing similar issues. Villa and Gokey began researching which local groups might be able to provide donations of socks and shoes for the children and began a drive to collect more items for future distribution.
Gokey, who is currently interning at a school in the Canutillo Independent School District (CISD), said that the need for children’s shoes is quite common in low-income communities. CISD also has a “stepper’s closet” with shoe donations for children in need. Gokey plans to pursue her MSW and hopes to have the opportunity to continue working in a school setting.
“I see the impact that this kind of project has on the students,” she said. “Sometimes, parents will ask themselves, ‘Do my children need a new pair of shoes, or do I need to put food on the table?’ So, even though the project is not yet finalized, I’m excited that we will be able to help the children at Alarcon Elementary.’”
Villa said that the experience confirmed her desire to continue her education and pursue her MSW, with a future goal of going into mental health for either children or adults. “I do have two children, so as long as it possible for me to work around that – whether that means taking online classes to get it done – I will.”
For more information about The $100 Solution, visit: https://the100dollarsolution.org/