Service Learning at UTSA

Student earns award for her dedication to volunteerism

Janet Oyeteju

"Service is an act of the heart."

And it's because Janet Oyeteju has such a big heart for service that she was named the 2011-12 Student Volunteer of the Year by the UTSA Inclusion and Community Engagement Center.

As a freshman, Oyeteju volunteered for one activity as a way to meet people. Soon, she joined VOICES, a student service group at UTSA. She became an officer, and also joined Women of Honor, a group working to discredit stereotypes of minority women. Now as a senior, she's the vice president of alternative spring break, and she has logged countless hours of service at a variety of San Antonio-area nonprofit organizations.

"My favorite aspect of volunteering is the impact it has on an organization and the community in general," Oyeteju said. "It makes me feel good to make them smile, even for a moment."

Originally from Houston, Oyeteju dedicated Fridays and Saturdays to her volunteer projects. One of her favorites is working with Habitat for Humanity.

"I liked how we had a part in helping families have their first house. I liked being part of the family history and putting life into the house," she said.

Oyeteju also coordinated the first Extreme Makeover UTSA event, which brought together more than 250 students working on projects to beautify the university campus. "The purpose of the event was to make students feel proud to go here," she said.

In her application for the award, Oyeteju wrote, "I encourage friends to start by doing projects with things they like. Their love for service will grow, and then they can do any volunteer activity and love it. ... Service is an act of the heart."

The award honors an outstanding student for time, effort and personal commitment to volunteerism and community enhancement. As someone who embodies the true spirit and UTSA mission of civic engagement and volunteerism, Oyeteju also received the $500 Sandra Cisneros Scholarship that accompanies the award.

"I think that the work we do for others, without ego, without expectations of return, is the highest work we can do as spiritual beings," Cisneros said. "I was surprised and honored when UTSA created this scholarship bearing my name. I asked that the scholarship go to someone who understands this generosity of spirit. In my own lifetime, I have been blessed with rewards when I have worked on behalf of others with humility. I think the rewards of volunteering are greater than fame or fortune."

"Many students logged lots of hours of community service, but Janet gave really thoughtful answers about why she volunteers, the impact service has on the community and the impact it has on her peers," said Jennifer Rames, associate director of service learning. Rames added that Oyeteju’s leadership in the Extreme Makeover event also made her stand out from other applicants.