UC Riverside Student United Way Group Honored With Two National Awards

In its first year, group receives volunteer and people's choice awards

award recipients at party

UC Riverside Student United Way President Hoa Bui (left) and Founding President Caasi Algazi (right) with United Way President and CEO Brian Gallagher at the 2012 United Way Community Leaders Conference. Photo courtesy of the United Way.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Although it is just a little more than a year old, the Student United Way at the University of California, Riverside has already made a big impression on a national level.

The 35-member UCR group was presented the United in Action Volunteer Award and the Live United People’s Choice Award at the annual United Way Community Leaders Conference at the Gaylord at Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TV on May 2, 2012. Founding president Caasi Algazi, a 2011 graduate in business with a concentration in marketing, and current president Hoa Bui, a senior business student with a concentration in marketing, attended the conference to accept the awards and also participate in discussion panels.

The Student United Way at UCR is one of about 60 student United Way organizations across the country, but the first of its kind in Southern California. Founded on April 27, 2011 by Algazi with a core group of five members that included Bui, they quickly began recruiting new members and signing up as volunteers for a variety of events throughout Riverside.

“To have such a wonderful group of students involved with our community at UCR speaks volumes of the commitment our students have to service,” said Student Affairs Officer Joseph Martinez, who is the group’s staff advisor. “The group has focused on campus on bring students and organization together to do collaborative work in the community.”

With dozens of events and hundreds of volunteer hours under their belts, the group submitted an application for the annual volunteer award.

“We honestly didn’t think we would win,” Bui said. “But we had done so much in a short amount of time that they felt we were deserving of the award. To be recognized out of all these student groups, many of which had been in operation for years, was really special.”

Receiving the People’s Choice Award was also a thrill for the members, as many of the Riverside community members that Student United Way had assisted through their volunteer work went online in huge numbers to vote for the group.

“We won in a landslide,” said Algazi, who moved into an alumni advisor role after graduating and who also works at the United Way of the Inland Valleys as community matters coordinator. “We were so amazed. It wasn’t only friends and families voting for us, but people from the community, both those we had worked with and even those we hadn’t yet worked with.”

“It was nice to see everyone in the community come out and support us,” Bui agreed.

In addition to receiving the awards in front of 2,100 guests, Bui and Algazi also participated in a pair of discussion panels, including one that featured CNN’s Don Lemon and Alma Powell, co-chair of America’s Promise and wife of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The meetings also provided networking opportunities and many questions from United Way organizations interested in starting their own student groups.

“We want to start relationships with these other United Ways in other countries, and to help them start their own Student United Ways and show them how to do it successfully,” Algazi said. “It can be a challenge, starting in your first year. You are trying to get your structure down, trying to keep your members engaged, trying to keep your foot in the community at the same time.”

Algazi and Bui sad the group would not be resting on their laurels, and that winning the award in their first year set the bar high for future groups.

“The slogan behind the United Way is ‘Give, Advocate, Volunteer and Live United,’ Algazi said. “What I would like to do next year is have a more well rounded approach where we cover all three of those points. We’ve got the volunteer thing down, but increasing giving and advocacy are our goals.”

Additionally, Algazi and Bui, who will also become an alumni advisor following his graduation in June, want to continue to build the group’s foundation for the long term.

“We want to make sure the passion stays,” she said. “This group is our seed. We are going to cultivate it and it is going to grow. Thirty years from now, who knows, maybe we’ll have hundreds and hundreds of members and alumni.”

For more information about the Student United Way at UCR, or to become a member, contact Algazi at Calgazi@uwiv.org or visit their website.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756
E-mail: john.warren@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Hoa Bui
Tel: (909) 518-2652
E-mail: hbui004@ucr.edu

Caasi Algazi
Tel: (951) 697-4700
E-mail: calgazi@uwiv.org

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