Posted April 17, 2014
There is a special group of college students who come to our campus on a regular basis to volunteer with our girls. The University of Texas Orange Jackets plan activities, help at our events and lend a hand when asked. OJ members are dedicated, kind and changing lives in a positive way! We appreciate everything they do!
We talked to Catie Cleary, the Orange Jacket’s co-V.P. of scholarship and service, about this awesome group and their mission to help others.
SH: Who are the Orange Jackets and what is your mission?
CC: We are the oldest honorary women’s organization on UT campus. Our three tenants are scholarship, leadership, and service, and we serve as the official hosts of the university. That sounds pretty fancy, but it means we get to do some really cool things to serve fellow students and faculty on campus. You’ll also find us on the field at football games leading fans in singing The Eyes of Texas. We can be spotted on campus by our burnt orange vests (“jackets”).
SH: The OJs have been volunteering at The Settlement Home for a number of years. What are some of the activities you all do with our girls?
CC: We come every other Friday afternoon to hang out with the girls– we play sports, paint nails, make crafts, and laugh a lot. We also have planned field trips with UT’s RecSports to take Settlement Home canoeing, rock climbing, and swimming. Last year we hosted a few workshops on goal setting, interviewing, and managing stress. One of my favorite things we did this spring involved bringing a natural perfumer to Settlement Home to teach the girls how to blend their own individual scents. It was super fun to see some of the girls incredibly engaged by self-care and beauty!
SH: Are there any particular moments or memories with the girls that stand out?
CC: All of us have special relationships and memories with the girls, but one of my personal favorites was a “spa” day we planned this spring. We had so much fun painting nails and making natural face masks out of bananas, brown sugar, and olive oil. Afterwards, we had to stop ourselves from eating the masks! It’s such a privilege to show the girls how to care for our bodies, since healthy body image can be a real struggle for teenage girls.
SH: It’s so important for our girls to have positive female role models. How do you feel about the impact you are having on these girls’ lives?
CC: Orange Jackets understand the importance of community service; that’s one of the reasons each of them was selected for the organization. However, I think we’re especially invested in our relationship with Settlement Home. We love laughing, talking, and simply hanging out with the girls. Being present and showing the girls that they are valuable, beautiful, and full of potential is what we aim to do every time we visit. If we can show them this, even for a moment, I know we’ll have made an impact on their lives.
SH: The OJs are very dedicated to volunteering at The Settlement Home. College students have busy lives. Can you talk about the dedication of your members and why they keep volunteering?
CC: We see our access to education and time at the university as a huge gift and privilege. Because of this, we each want to share that gift; that’s one of the major reasons why we spend so much time with Settlement Home. We also deeply care about women’s leadership, and want to share that value with the girls.
SH: What would you say to others who are thinking about volunteering at The Settlement Home or a similar agency?
CC: Do it! Volunteering is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and I promise, as cheesy as it sounds, that it will change your life. You’ll learn so much from the girls and you’ll find that they give just as much to you as you give to them. Volunteering at Settlement Home is a blast, and you’ll be making a difference in the lives of some amazing girls.