UW-Rock students seek unity with UW-W

Brad Allen, Managing Editor

Two student organizations at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County are looking to expand their membership and community outreach efforts as the UW-System Merger draws nearer.

Both entities are geared toward increasing student engagement and providing a greater sense of unity. Student members hope their experiences can help instill those values in other students who might benefit as a result.

Here are the highlights:

English Honor Society

Dr. John Pruitt is known as “Mr. John the Book Man” to the children at Head Start in Janesville.

Pruitt is the adviser for the Gamma Delta chapter of Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society at UW-Rock County. He and his student members volunteer for multiple community projects every year since the local organization was established in 2007. Some examples  include:

Reading books to children from underprivileged homes

Tutoring Rock River Charter School students

Running a book drive with YWCA for families in homeless shelters

Leading the Books for Boys program in Beloit area schools

Pruitt said the volunteering efforts of working with younger children can help the youth learn and grow from older students who set a good example.

“A lot of these kids are without a father figure in their lives or don’t have positive role models,” Pruitt said. “We try to give them that exposure.”

But the benefits are not one-sided. Volunteering is also helpful for the college students.

“It’s good for building trust, and it gives [UW-Rock County students] practical experience outside of school,” Pruitt said.

He added that the programs even help to attract more students to the two-year college. Some don’t know what college is like or don’t have hopes of going, but Pruitt and his students hope to change that.

UW-Rock County alumna Ashley Mallu said her experience with the local chapter of English Honor Society was very positive.

Mallu added that it was easy to volunteer in a way that seems miniscule, but has large a impact.

“I was never really one to join clubs, but I enjoyed it,” Mallu said. “It was great to go see the kids and to have them excited for you to read to them … seeing their eyes light up at story time.”

Many UW-Rock County students are not involved with extracurricular activities because many of the students work at least 40 hours a week or have families, Pruitt said.

“Everyone feels good about being part of something,” Mallu said. “Even if you feel like you don’t fit into a certain crowd, you have to open up to new possibilities.”

Pruitt said he isn’t too familiar with the Whitewater community, but the student organization is willing to explore new opportunities in the area and expand its volunteering efforts to be more active in the community at-large. The organization has 15 current members.

“So many organizations are aching for volunteers, and I like to provide these opportunities for both sides,” Pruitt said.


Latinos Unidos

Laura Piña thought she was one of the only Hispanic students at UW-Rock County when she began her college education last fall.  She reached out to other students and discovered many other Hispanic students attended the college. A group of students then founded a local chapter of Latinos Unidos in October, 2017.

Piña, the student organization’s president, said their goal is to spread awareness, provide a supportive network for first-generation students and educate about Hispanic culture.

This Wednesday, March 7, students from Bigfoot High School in Walworth will visit UW-Rock County for an informational tour with Piña and student members of Latinos Unidos.

Piña said Latinos Unidos is made up mostly of first-generation college students.

“It’s about more than just the Latino background,” Latinos Unidos treasurer Sarahi Noriega said. “It’s about students coming to college for the first time ever. It’s brand new to us.”

That’s especially why the organization is reaching out to high school students, so others in similar circumstances feel like they have someone to relate to.

“We’re a home to them here,” Piña said. “Other students just like them are here. You get to know people from other cities who are Hispanic.”

While Piña is from Janesville, several others of the organization’s 18 student members came from Beloit. The organization is open to any students who are curious to learn more about what they do.

Latinos Unidos is leading several other initiatives throughout the remainder of the spring semester:

One involves aiding in The Pulsera Project, which involves selling bracelets locally to help the partnering nonprofit organization to afford housing options for people who are living in poverty in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Another is a Cinco De Mayo awareness event on May 5 to educate other students or faculty members about the origins of the historic date and what it means as opposed to misconceptions.

Piña said she and the other student leaders of UW-Rock County’s Latinos Unidos organization hope to come into contact with the UW-Whitewater Latinos Unidos organization to communicate about ideas and learn more about each other in efforts to implement new ideas on both campuses.