Before starting my freshman year at my college at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), I knew I wanted to be part of a few organizations that would be of help to me, but I didn't know which specific ones I wanted to join. During orientation, I signed up for multiple clubs with the intention of attending a meeting of each and later eliminating out those I did not care for. Fast forward to college, I'm now active in three out of the 100 (that's an exaggeration) organizations I signed up for. These clubs are FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian University Students), USS (Undergraduate Success Scholars) and MAPS (Minority Association of Pre-medical Students). These are organizations that have helped me in my faith walk, finding mentors who care about my success, navigating the right classes and helping me determine and work toward my career path.
To start with, FOCUS is a Christian organization that stands for Fellowship of Christian University Students. Before coming to UTD, my highest priority was finding a Christian community to plug myself into. I signed up for FOCUS at orientation, which was the best decision I ever made concerning college. Many people might think an organization based on faith welcomes only people who share its beliefs, but that's not so, especially when it comes to FOCUS. This community has activities that are open to anyone who wants to be involved.
The main reason I continued my participation in this society is because of how engaging it is. During the week, there's a worship night which is held on a Friday, which is just a church service. It's called Friday Night Fellowship (FNF), where there are teachings, music and fellowship with other attendees. I go to this event not because I feel it's an obligation to remain in the group (because it's not), but because it's where I feel most like myself. Spending time in the presence of God gives me a sense of peace that is unfathomable. After FNF, there's always an event where individuals go out to different places to just hang out and get to know one another better.
Besides FNF, there's a small group on different days of the week and anyone can join based on what time works for them. These small groups are called CORE and are gender-specific. At the beginning of my freshman year, I decided to join CORE on a Thursday night because that's what worked for me at the time. I met a group of girls at this Bible study that changed my life in a significant way. They were and still are supportive girls who cared about one another. They helped others with their problems, whether it was school load, crushes or family problems. Each girl was there to offer a piece of advice to anyone who needed it. Through CORE, I did not only develop my faith, but have made lifelong friends who care deeply about me and want to see me grow.
Another event that FOCUS has that keeps me engaged is pizza theology, a five-hour teaching (with pizza) on a topic once every semester. Invite a college student anywhere that involves food and I'm 99.5% sure that invitation won't be declined. FOJ, which is a one-on-one Bible study has also helped me establish my relationship with God. Also, FOCUS comes in handy by organizing hangouts every now and then where we play ultimate Frisbee, cards, video games and other activities that people are interested in. As a student who studies most of the time, I realize how important it is for me to socialize to remain sane, so these events serve as a break and relaxing time for me. My involvement in FOCUS has taught me what a community based on love looks like and knowing I'm surrounded by people who care for others gives me so much joy.
To add to the above, I was invited to another association called Undergraduate Success Scholars (USS) a few months before I started my first year at UTD. This program is aimed towards helping minorities navigate through college and providing them with opportunities that will help them succeed. I didn't know much about USS, but I went ahead to accept the invitation because based on the description, it seemed reputable. Deciding to be part of USS without knowing anything about it might be one of the best careless decisions I've made!
This organization has small groups called families that are each aimed towards either our majors, career paths or leadership opportunities. I chose to be part of one that focuses on my chemistry major. My family leader is a chemistry major as well, so she was very helpful in offering advice on what courses to take, which professors to sign up for and other opportunities that will make us excel in our courses. Without her guidance, I wouldn't be able to make some decisions that helped me in my major.
USS also has three workshops per semester where participants in the organization come together and listen to presentations from guest speakers. We’ve had authorities from different fields talk to us on topics ranging from appropriate attire and attitudes for interviews to utilizing the various resources on campus. These workshops are held on Saturday mornings where breakfast is provided. The food is probably one of my biggest motivations for going.
Additionally, the staff of Undergraduate Success Scholars also provide opportunities for members to volunteer, do research and be involved in many leadership positions. I have also gained a lot from the meetings I have with staff members. At these meetings, I get information on where to seek help in all areas that I'm deficient in and how to make use of opportunities available to me. I've also utilized study sessions where food is provided and bonds are formed. The leaders of the organization really care about us the participants and do everything possible to see us succeed. I always want to be involved in a community that is passionate about the welfare of others. USS has gone above and beyond.
Another organization that I decided to join in college is Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). This society is geared toward students who aspire to become medical doctors. For a while, my plan was to become a doctor, so I felt joining a club that will aid me in reaching that goal would be necessary. MAPS has meetings where people from the medical field and experts in MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) come over to talk to members. We've had a representative from Princeton University speak on how the MCAT is structured and what to expect. He also gave us an opportunity to go through some of the questions seen on past exams.
Also, the leaders in MAPS invited medical doctors to speak to us about their experiences in the health sector. These individuals talked about how they got to where they are and occurrences at their workplaces. Because this organization is comprised of minorities, we've had speakers who talked about how the role of race plays in their fields. Students in MAPS also had the privilege of connecting with current medical students who share great ideas on classes and preparations to make for medical school. Their stories motivate me to do better and to focus on my dreams. Whether it's becoming a medical doctor, a writer or pharmacist, their wisdom gives me the courage to aspire to reach higher.
MAPS also provides volunteer opportunities for its members to gain experience in the health sector. These activities serve as learning opportunity for most individuals. They also help some determine if they really want to be involved in the medical field. The leaders try to get every member involved. Without a doubt, this organization has served as a stepping stone for many to get into medical schools and are seeing their dreams come to fruition.
I believe getting into a dream college is important, but getting plugged into at least one organization that will help you grow should be the highest priority. FOCUS has helped me establish my faith, USS has taught me much about community and my major and MAPS has exposed me to personalities and resources that will help me in my future career.