Screams of joy echoed through the dimly lit, wood-floored building, as the students of Kemp Elementary talked about their plans for summer. “Walking on Sunshine” played faintly in the background as children laughed and students from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School passed out packages to 450 students in need to culminate the third annual Project Mays event, hosted by the Business Student Council (BSC). Keeping with last year’s objectives, BSC members hoped to give economically disadvantaged children in the Bryan, Texas, community a special treat while teaching Texas A&M students the importance of service to others.
After the success of last year’s Project Mays, which raised more than $15,000 to provide backpacks and school supplies to 601 students at a different school in the Bryan district, the members of BSC felt an even larger pull for service, seeking new ways to reach out to the Bryan/College Station community. Mary Walraven, coordinator for special programs and lead social worker for Bryan ISD, once again served as the primary contact for the project, providing inspiration for this year’s theme, “It’s a Toy Story.” In her initial meetings with BSC members, Walraven shared what she referred to as the golden rule of social work: only three things are needed to stimulate the mind of a childâ€”books, blocks, and balls. Project Mays Committee Chair Kelli Downing ’11, a sophomore accounting major, took Walraven’s words and ran with them, encouraging donations of those three items.
“We wanted to focus our time and energy on one particular place,” said Downing. “Children are the future, and doing whatever we can to give back to the community and help shape their lives is our ultimate goal.” Downing added that the main emphasis of this year’s project is to improve the student’s living standards at home over the summer and provide them with mental stimulation.
Downing began planning for the Project Mays Revelation Day, when BSC members distributed toys to Kemp students, as early as December. Corporate sponsors were recruited at the spring career fair, providing the funds needed to purchase the bulk of the items. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Chevron Phillips, and Williams Companies donated thousands of dollars for the event along with several individual sponsors whose monetary gifts helped make the purchases possible.
A major part of the ability to carry out such a large project, said Downing, comes from the knowledge gained through a business school education, and the understanding of running a business. “A core value of being an Aggie is service,” Downing explained. “We want to use the skills that we learn at school to not only better ourselves in the classroom or workplace, but to better the community as a whole.”