Verónica Campos, a sophomore Business Administration major at Texas A&M International University, learned a real-life lesson during Spring Break this year.
While some of her classmates were catching up on homework or traveling to popular vacation spots, Campos, along with 15 other A&M International students, worked with the City of Laredo's Community Development Department on a survey of the conditions of approximately 5,800 residential housing units. Students received stipends for their participation.
The survey, conducted for the City by the University's Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development, will be used to help allocate federal and other funds for the rehabilitation of sub-standard homes during the next five years, said Erasmo Villarreal, director of Community Development for the City of Laredo.
Using a hand-held PC, the first-ever to be used in such a survey conducted by the City, Campos and her fellow students rated the condition of the housing units according to categories specified by the City.
"They also gave us training on how to rate the units," Campos said.
Campos said working on the three-week project and seeing the range of housing conditions was a learning experience that taught her a sense of community awareness and humility.
"As I saw these housing units and talked to residents, I realized that there were many things in my community that I was not aware of. We saw hard-working people that were struggling for a better life. This prepared me to be able to help people in the future," she said.
Villarreal said the City contracted with the Texas Center for the work because it needed the work completed quickly and professionally.
The survey results, when compiled in the next week or so, will be available for the public to see, Villarreal said.
The Texas Center participated in the project because the availability of quality housing in Laredo is one of its points of interest, said Baldomero Garcia, associate director of the Texas Center.
"We felt the urgency to really do a good job because we know that people need assistance and that the sooner we got the word to the City, the sooner people could get help," Garcia said.
Established by the Texas Legislature in 1987, the Texas Center is a consortium effort between Texas A&M International University, the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas at El Paso.
It is designed to provide leadership and support to Texas border communities in their economic and community development efforts.
Topics the Texas Center provides information on include health, education, economics, public administration, and science.
For further information, please contact Dr. Michael Patrick, Texas Center director, at 326-2547. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at firstname.lastname@example.org