Opportunity Scholars reflect on their recent service with the Utah Food Bank

The Opportunity Scholars Program is synonymous with service. Each semester, students come together to serve and support the community. Over the last year, they helped at the St. Vincent Dining Hall, Welfare Square Cannery (300+ hours of service in one day!), and the Utah Food Bank where they packed and distributed food to the local community.

Below students reflect on what volunteering with the Utah Food Bank this summer meant to them:

Prior to volunteering through the [Opportunity Scholars] program with the Utah Food Bank, I had been out of touch with my community. I was existing in this odd limbo between quarantine and making connections with other individuals again. It was not until the arrival of the trucks and assisting with the process of unloading the vehicles that it occurred to me that existing on this limbo was its own form of privilege.

The day I had volunteered the trucks weren’t punctual and the produce wasn’t properly packaged. As we all frantically packaged items, I observed the cars all lined up patiently and felt sympathy for everyone waiting. Especially because I am aware of the chances that the families waiting in the far back may be turned away if there is not enough food. Once we were able to get the cars loaded with food, I had observed the differences in each individual’s form of gratitude. Some would cheerfully say “thank you” while others deliberately avoided eye contact. Either way, I acknowledged that what we were doing was impactful to all the families that were not going hungry for the week. I was not able to learn about any one of these strangers’ hardships, but I did learn that whatever hardship has put them in their own financial predicaments I was able to ease some of their burdens just by sparing a few hours of my day. This truly has made me self-reflect and humbled me once more.” ~ Michelle Vo

[Serving at the Utah Food Bank] was a very fun and humbling experience to be out and helping out the community. We went to a neighborhood church building in Salt Lake, where we met people from all walks of life. They came with wagons or in their cars, needing a bit of help with feeding their families. Through the food bank, we were able to distribute the food and take away the stress of putting food on the table, even if it was just for a few days.” ~ Chloe Topacio

I served with the Utah Food Bank to provide families in need with essential food and snacks. We distributed over 200 meals to families in need across the Salt Lake area. These families rely on a supply of food to be distributed to go on with their daily lives. I believe we helped provide a safe and healthy relationship between helping others and connecting with our community. Everyone has their struggles and being able to help others when we can make a difference in building a stronger community.” ~ Jimmy Trinh

I volunteered with my fellow Opportunity Scholars for the Utah Food Bank. With support from one of our local churches, we helped distribute a great amount of food to the surrounding community. We were tasked with packing boxes with groceries for the families who drove through the parking lot. We greeted each person and family with warm smiles and sent them on their way. Food is a staple in thousands of households yet not all of them can afford simple groceries. Donations to the Food Bank made it possible for this to happen. The people we aided may have been facing uncertainty when it came to their groceries, and this was one way we helped them gain some confidence, by allowing them to focus their time and energy elsewhere. I was ecstatic at the end of this experience. Giving back is just one thing I am able to do, and when I do, I know I was responsible for some small difference.” ~ Taryn Sahagian

I chose to volunteer with the Utah Food Bank. It was a completely different experience than I thought it would be. At first, I didn’t think that I would get to interact that much with anyone else that came from Opportunity Scholars. However, that wasn’t the case! I was able to interact with and meet a lot of new people that came from the program, while also being able to interact with the people that were coming to get the food and other volunteers. It was SO HOT! Something else that was nice to see was the people that were so grateful for the food that they were getting. I didn’t realize that a couple of boxes of food could help someone that much. It was apparent that a lot of these people really needed this food. Hopefully, they keep coming back!

I also really appreciated that Rich [Richard Kaufusi, Program Director] took us to get something to eat afterward. It let me further bond with the people that I was working with from the program for the past few hours, and it also allowed me to take in the service that we just did. I also thought that everyone that worked with us and guided us through the process was so nice and I felt really welcomed and appreciated by everyone that was at the donation site. I plan to come and help out a few more times; thank you for giving me the opportunity to do service and be a part of the program!” ~ Paige Pappas

The first thought I had when serving the Salt Lake Community was saying to myself, “I can’t believe it’s been over a year since the pandemic and people are still struggling to get food to feed their families.” My initial thought was that there were not going to be a lot of people showing up. Well, I was definitely wrong, so many people showed up. During opening and preparing meals, I got to meet kids, elderly folks, and volunteers who were there to help and to also get a meal. One of my encounters was with a boy named Jean, while talking to him he asked, “If I go to college will I be able to make enough money to always buy food and do fun stuff?” I assured Jean that if he continued to go to school, he would be able to make it to college and be able to provide for himself and left it at that. It wasn’t until we took our last picture that he came up to me and said, “Hey man, thanks for telling me I can make it. I was thinking about taking a job and not focusing on school.”. I didn’t really think I was going to be able to make a difference by just packing some lunches.” ~ Juan Galarraga

My time doing service and outreach with the Utah Food Bank to provide the community with simple but very necessary resources such as food has been eye-opening. We don’t often realize the lack of basic resources such as food, water, and shelter until we see it ourselves. The challenges these individuals face are not something we experience on a day-to-day basis. The ability to drive up and receive food is accessible for everyone in need. While I was serving, I noticed the language barrier between the volunteers and the different families. They relied heavily on hand gestures and body language. They were very grateful for us, as volunteers, and everyone who was involved; they thanked me on multiple occasions and it felt great seeing them smile as they drove away.” ~ Lily Yu

It was a great opportunity for me to meet people and talk to students, who are in business as well. I got to hear the upper-classmen talk about the major they are pursuing and how their classes were like. I met Will, Ezequiel (Ezzy), and Micheal, who gave me advice on the classes they took, which was nice. I was able to help by directing traffic, at first I was a bit nervous but it went pretty great and I also got to brush up on my Spanish too. Rich taught me how to direct traffic and talk to people. I met really nice people with who I was able to spark up a conversation! I didn’t realize how difficult their lives were, some of the people told me they are in a lot better place than they were before, which was good to hear even if I met them for just a brief second. I think just asking them how their day was, or talking about the weather, made them feel like there was someone there for them. Overall, I really liked this experience, and a lot of people came by to thank us for helping out.” ~ Alondra Morales

The Eccles School is proud of our Opportunity Scholars and this fantastic program designed to support and enhance the educational experience of first-generation business students as they progress toward graduation. For more information, visit Eccles.link/opportunity-scholars.

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