Isaiah Gurule, left, and Isaiah Sandoval spread gravel on the playground at Cottonwood Valley Charter School in Socorro April 1. Gurule is a civil and environmental engineering graduate student from Abiquiu, and Sandoval is a computer science major from Grants.
Courtesy photos

To express appreciation to their host community and to spend time outdoors on a sunny Saturday morning, 44 New Mexico Tech students, faculty members, and staff gathered on April 1 to clean up and help beautify Socorro. Groups scattered to three sites around the city – Cottonwood Valley Charter School, just off California Street near the new Circle K, and near the Loma Vista Apartments – to spread gravel and pick up trash for the university’s second annual community service day dubbed The Big Event.

Matthew Thompson, left, and Alejandro Lopez, both mechanical engineering students, clean up a field near the Loma Vista Apartments

David Greene, vice president for Student Life and chief diversity officer, told the students at the kickoff breakfast prior to The Big Event  that being a part of a small community like Socorro, their actions could make a big impact.

“It should make you feel good that you are doing something for where you live,” he said. “Give service with an open heart and mind.”

Dean of Students Jennifer Chapman said that she is working to make community service a regular part of student life at NMT, with opportunities available throughout the year to work on projects around Socorro as individuals and as part of student clubs and organizations.

“We’re inviting the community to reach out to us,” she said, adding that her office’s website – – now includes a form for residents to request student service.

Janet Baffoe, a chemical engineering graduate student originally from Ghana, said she volunteered to get a break from homework and studying.

“I’m here to pick up trash and meet new people,” she said.

Isaiah Gurule, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student originally from Abiquiu, said his involvement with The Big Event matches his interest in preventing and cleaning up pollution.

Since its introduction in 1982, The Big Event has become the largest one-day, student-run service project in the nation, with students at universities across the country participating in community service and showing appreciation to their host cities.

NMT students gather for breakfast prior to The Big Event. From left: Funmilola Nwokocha, Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering; Mary Nwokocha, second-grader at Parkview Elementary; Harriet Tetteh, master’s student in mineral engineering; Janet Baffoe, chemical engineering graduate student; and Jonathan Asante, petroleum engineering graduate student.

Katie Bauer, NMT Communications