The Team Up Challenge moment that changed Jose Medellin was meeting a fourth-grader named Maria.
Medellin, a junior at the University of Texas-San Antonio two years ago, signed up to be a Team Up Challenge Scholar and mentor students through TUC, which teaches kids civic responsibility through hands-on learning and service projects.
Medellin met Maria at Northwest Crossing Elementary school, where they made take-home meals for students who wouldn’t have enough food to eat during the weekend otherwise.
“I saw a reflection of my story in Maria,” Medellin said. “My parents came to America to give me a better life, and so did hers. She learned to speak English on the fly like I did. She’s so energetic and wants to go to college and help others. It changes you when you can be a mentor, and everybody has that ability to impact someone else.”
The Team Up Challenge is seeking 2017-18 scholars from San Antonio area colleges to impact local students. Scholars are paired with a school and meet at least twice a month to work on their program. Team Up Challenge Scholars receive a $2,000 stipend and can apply through September 20 at www.teamupchallenge.com.
Medellin, who is originally from nearby Seguin, was the first member of his family to graduate college. Now, he continues to work with Spurs Sports & Entertainment as a San Antonio FC Sales Representative. Medellin said his favorite thing about the Team Up Challenge is the dose of perspective it provided, that every person can be a role model. He’s since signed up to mentor a student as part of SS&E’s InspireU program, through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I wasn’t empowering the kids as much as Team Up Challenge empowered me to be a mentor for others,” Medellin said. “When you see parents tearing up because their kids are getting food for the weekend and you see these elementary school kids working together to help others, it’s unforgettable.”
Medellin is one of two Team Up Scholars who have gone on to work for Spurs Sports & Entertainment, along with research coordinator Liza Southwick.
Southwick, a Nashville native who attended Trinity University, said she wanted to use the Team Up Challenge as a way to get involved in the San Antonio community.
She went on to be a Team Up Challenge Scholar at three schools across the city, including last year’s Team Up Challenge MVPs MacArthur High School. MacArthur’s MacTEACH program includes tutoring to four elementary and middle schools and to refugee students, activities and events for ALE (Alternative Learning Experience) students, humanitarian outreach programs, adult technology and English language education and more.
“They call it the Trinity bubble, because a lot of people don’t leave campus,” Southwick said. “I got a chance to see the best of San Antonians and I’d almost leave MacArthur in tears because it was just so rewarding.”
The Team Up Challenge moment Southwick said changed her the most was MacTEACH’s adult technology education. As the MacArthur students were tutoring elementary school students and refugee students, some of those being tutored had parents who were not native English speakers. She was teaching things she took for granted such as how to use a computer and set up an e-mail account, and the response always left her moved.
“People are so grateful when you give just a little bit of your time,” Southwick said. “When you’re in college, you can be wrapped up in your own world, but the Team Up Challenge takes you out of it and gives you perspective about how to help others.”