A&M-Commerce First-Year TRAC Initiative Raises More Than $1,300 to Benefit Commerce ISD School Lunch Program

The A&M-Commerce First-Year TRAC initiative raised more than $1,300 during its Fall 2018 campus-wide service project titled, “Collect Change to Make Change.” The project focused on collecting spare change across campus. The funds raised were enough to pay off the entire school lunch balance to-date for students in all of Commerce ISD.

“Being able to assist children in Commerce ISD was something that hit close to home for many students, as multiple students recounted their memories of not being able to eat lunch at school because they were unable to pay their balance,” said Kylie Pickens, First-Year TRAC mentor. “Collecting spare change made so much sense, as everyone is able to contribute a small amount to add up to a large sum and therefore everybody was able to contribute regardless of their financial status.”

The service project was connected to “A Long Way Home,” the Book in Common read by all incoming freshmen students. The book features the true-life story of Saroo Brierley, who locates his biological family in India after being adopted and raised in Australia. The story revolves around issues of resilience, hope and triumph in the face of adversity, such as poverty and food insecurity.

In Hunt County alone, 20.4% of the population is food insecure, and many of these are children under the age of 18.

“This service project was an opportunity for the university to help our community of Commerce, Texas,” said Mitzvah Villeda, chair of the Service Project Committee. “As part of the university, we understand the value of education and something such as hunger should never be an obstacle for students of Commerce ISD to learn, grow and thrive.”

Led by peer mentors, the First-Year TRAC program has included an element of community service every year since its inception in 2017 and has involved freshmen students and the campus community.

“The first-year experience at Texas A&M University-Commerce is designed to equip our incoming freshmen with the tools to be successful inside and outside of the classroom,” said Dr. Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, dean of the University College. “Our activities, classes and discussions are also designed to teach students that efforts taken on campus can have a large impact upon others in our surrounding community.”