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UTEP Employees Score A Goal for Charity

Last Updated on September 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Originally published September 12, 2018

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP Communications

When College of Health Sciences Dean Shafik Dharamsi, Ph.D., was a freshman in Canada, he was offered a shot at his dream to play professional soccer.

UTEP employees can take the Deans’ Challenge every Friday through Oct. 24 at the UTEP Geology Lawn.
UTEP employees can take the Deans’ Challenge every Friday through Oct. 24 at the UTEP Geology Lawn.

Dharamsi was a star goalkeeper on the varsity soccer team when he caught the attention of a scout who wanted to sign him to the Bristol Rovers Football Club, a League One club in Bristol, England.

The first-generation college student considered dropping out of school to join the squad in England, but Dharamsi’s father firmly put his foot down and said no.

“Looking back that was probably the most difficult, but the most important decision I made to stay in school and complete my degree because at that time all I thought about was soccer,” Dharamsi said with a laugh.

Today, Dharamsi is combining his passion for the sport with his drive to help the community’s most vulnerable populations.

Starting Friday, Sept. 14, Dharamsi will don his soccer cleats and challenge UTEP faculty and staff to score a goal for charity in support of the 2018 State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC).

As part of the Deans’ Challenge, the college will set up a goal post on the UTEP Geology Lawn from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday through Oct. 26. Dharamsi and the other UTEP deans will play goalkeeper against UTEP faculty and staff who line up to kick a penalty shot past them.  

Employees who step up to the penalty mark will be encouraged to donate to an SECC charity for the first time or increase their contribution from the previous year.

The campaign hopes to reach its goal of 100 percent SECC participation at UTEP to help improve the quality of life for people in the community.

“UTEP is instrumental in this region,” said Dharamsi, the SECC Committee vice chair. ”Our SECC participation enables us to work alongside these organizations to address the needs and challenges of vulnerable groups in our community.”

The SECC is the only authorized workplace campaign for state agency and higher education employees throughout Texas. This year marks the 25th year the SECC has raised money for local, statewide, national and international charitable organizations that support a wide variety of health and human services.

UTEP faculty and staff donated more than $85,000 in 2017. Stephanie Walton, SECC Committee chair, said the campaign is a convenient way for employees to donate to their favorite charity. It also provides charities with a sustainable, year-round source of funds because employees can choose to have their donation deducted from their paychecks over nine or 12 months, or they can make a one-time donation. 

“It is important that we understand that no matter how big or small the donation, it will go toward making our communities and world a better place,” said Walton, director of Professional and Public Programs at UTEP's Extended University. “In fact, by having a smaller amount of money deducted from our paycheck throughout the year, we can donate a larger amount of money and have a greater impact overall.” 

Andrea Martinez, business manager for Facilities Services, has been an avid supporter of the annual workplace campaign since she joined UTEP eight years ago.

She said small donations can make a big impact, especially when funds are pooled together to create greater change.

For example, donating $5 per month for a year will provide teaching materials for 30 at-risk students, while $10 a month for one year will provide 233 meals for hungry babies.

“El Paso is our community,” Martinez said. “The community where we live, work and play. If we do not take care of our community, who will?”

The SECC Committee is encouraging all of UTEP’s colleges, schools and divisions to come up with fun and creative ways to engage employees in the campaign. The UTEP entity with most SECC Spirit will be recognized with the Traveling SECC Spirit Award Painting. Last year, the award was presented to UTEP’s Department of Athletics.

During the Deans’ Challenge, employees will have the opportunity to meet with local SECC charities to learn how their contributions will make a difference in the community.

Dharamsi plans to visit the 36 local charities that receive support from the SECC to better understand their needs. Since July 2018, he has toured more than a dozen organizations, including the Armed Services YMCA of El Paso, the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso, Reynolds Home and the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

“One person can make a difference,” Dharamsi said. “But imagine what a team can do.”