The scholars spent part of their weekend building fences, sorting donations and leading workshops at Paul's Project-Grace Campus in Lubbock.
Stephen Perry is a planner and an early riser – Saturday was no different. The Texas Tech construction engineering major from Lubbock planned for months and was up at 5:45 a.m., ready to join his fellow Terry Foundation Scholars at Paul's Project-Grace Campus for their annual service project.
Then he forgot to put the sausage in the oven with the rest of the breakfast they planned to serve. A bit later, his friend, who was supposed to lend him a big fajita disc to cook 170 eggs, didn't answer Perry's knocks on his front door. The person delivering the coffee got lost. Tools and supplies to be used for fence repairs were forgotten at the house.
"That's not me. I sit down a week in advance and have my entire schedule built out," said Perry, a U.S. Navy veteran. "To forget something was out of the ordinary, but a lot of little things just continued to pile up."
These little things, and the unexpected appearance of cold and rainy weather, could have derailed even the most determined group – but not the Terry Scholars.
"Everything went off without a hitch," Perry said. "Problems kept solving themselves as fast as they were coming. In the moment, I was like, " How are we going to make this work?' At the end of the day, it was a big sigh of relief."
The group of more than 60 Texas Tech students were joined by 15 Terry Scholars from the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP), one of 13 Texas universities and colleges that house the program. This was the first year the two groups completed their yearly service project as regional events.
"In the past, one location would be chosen and all Terrys from around the state would meet there," said Marcus Gonzalez, president of the Texas Tech Terry student organization. "However, most statewide projects have been held in the Dallas, Houston or Austin areas."
Gonzalez, a community, family and addiction sciences major from Little Elm who plans to study medicine, said he pushed for regional projects so Lubbock and El Paso scholars wouldn't have to travel such long distances each year.
"For us, this was a terrific project," said Texas Tech Terry Scholar Program Coordinator Heather Medley. "Statewide projects have been difficult for our students to attend due to the distance. Our students were able to serve in our community, create connections and, hopefully, establish a long-lasting relationship with a local organization."
Beginning this year, Texas Tech and UTEP will alternate projects to serve Lubbock and El Paso, following a common theme with other program schools. For 2017, all 13 Terry Foundation schools agreed the focus would be helping the homeless.
"That's how we decided to help at Paul's Project," Gonzalez said. "We reached out to local businesses and organizations as well as within our own organization to see what they could donate for our project. Fortunately, we were able to get fence materials and some food and toiletries donated. Everything else was provided by our organization."
Gonzalez said work like this is important because everyone hits a point in their life where they need to depend on someone else.
"We just really wanted to give back in some way, and this was a perfect opportunity," he said. "That is what a community is all about. We saw a situation in our Lubbock community that needed to be addressed and we took action."
Giving back also is a way to honor the founders of the Terry Foundation, Gonzalez said.
"As Terry Scholars, we are blessed with more than we could ever imagine.," he said. "For some of us, without the generosity of the Terry Foundation and its founders, Howard and Nancy Terry, a university education would not be possible."
The event started with a breakfast for volunteers, cooked by Perry and his wife. Pancakes, sausage and coffee were on the menu, along with a surprise for residents.
Weeks before, a resident had mentioned to Perry they couldn't remember the last time they'd eaten a real egg – all the eggs served at shelter are powdered.
"A woman from my church donated about 170 farm-fresh eggs," Perry said. "As soon as those eggs got cooking, residents came flying."
Perry said it's a need he can relate to – nine months at sea with the U.S. Navy with no real eggs in sight can be hard to handle, especially to a West Texan like Perry who was raised on farm-fresh eggs.
"It's an interesting perspective to think that real eggs shouldn't be that big of a deal, but they are," he said.
After breakfast, the group got to work on the shelter's other needs, sorting and organizing donations, building and repairing fences, conducting mock interviews and budgeting workshops, and distributing "blessing bags" filled with personal hygiene items and snacks.
Preparation began months in advance, including some work on March 25, a week before the project day, when some of the Texas Tech Terrys went to Paul's Project to set fence posts and prepare makeshift cubicles for the mock interviews. The night before the project, the UTEP Terry Scholars arrived in Lubbock and the group created the blessing bags.
"We loved hosting the UTEP Terrys and look forward to working with them in the future and continuing to grow the relationship between our two universities. They were eager to help us serve our Lubbock community," Gonzalez said. "When you are dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of others, it doesn't matter if you're a Red Raider or a UTEP Miner."
Serving is one of the hallmark traits of a Terry Scholar regardless of the school
they attend, Medley said.
"Our students are incredible. They consistently amaze me with their hearts for others and their commitment to serve," Medley said. "Working with the scholars from UTEP was wonderful. We say that the Terry Foundation is a family and working side by side with our Miner Terrys was just another example of that extraordinary connection."
Shelter staff and residents also rolled up their sleeves and worked alongside the volunteers, Gonzalez said. His favorite part of the day was seeing the joy everyone shared, regardless of if they were working with power tools to repair the fence, pushing carts full of donations or leading the career and budgeting workshops.
"We were able to connect, not just with one another, but with the residents. It was a very fulfilling experience for us," he said. "It was nice seeing people from different walks of life come together to get work done."
The idea of creating connections is a common theme that runs through everything the Terry Scholars do, including supporting each other, Perry said. As a non-traditional transfer student, he said he doesn't know that he would have stuck with school without the program. Knowing the other scholars have his back and are ready to battle for him has made it easy to continue his education.
"We are all connected, we all have needs," Perry said. "After being in the military, my perspective changed to wanting to see the connection between people and not the divide. It doesn't matter what a person's circumstances are – I just want them to feel that connection. I'm blessed to be around a bunch of people who feel the same, who are aware of what's going on around them and want to make a change for the better."