Nyamarembo works with TUVAC to give back


photo by Stephen Sumrall-Orsak, staff photographer

Spring family weekend is going to look a little different this year. Instead of encouraging families and students to get off campus for a volunteer project, Jolie Nyamarembo, AmeriCorps public ally for Trinity University Volunteer Action Committee (TUVAC), is bringing the volunteering to Trinity. All semester long, Nyamarembo has coordinated with Meals on Wheels to create a service project on campus, making it more accessible to students and their families.

Nyamarembo envisions students and families gathered together, creating hygiene packs — filling bags with essentials such as shaving cream, toothpaste and granola bars. Meanwhile, other families will create colorful and friendly cards of encouragement for the homebound seniors that Meals on Wheels serves.

This is just one service project and responsibility that Nyamarembo, as a public ally, oversees. Nyamarembo applied to be part of the Public Allies program because she values public service. Her concern for local government and nonprofits began when she moved to America from Rwanda.

“I think being a refugee, growing up in America, seeing what my parents had to struggle through as immigrants, I care about policies and politics. Seeing my parents and seeing the gaps we have in our society, how can you not care about what’s happening to underrepresented groups?” Nyamarembo said.

In San Antonio, the Public Allies program places around 20 participants at nonprofits for 10 months at a time. This allows participants to learn about the inner workings of nonprofits and build relationships with their community.

To become an AmeriCorps Public Ally, Jolie had to go through extensive interviewing that lasted about two months. Then, she went through a matching process to choose which nonprofit she would work with.

“The people who have been selected, the AmeriCorps members and nonprofits, meet up and have individual interviews. It’s like speed dating, but looking for a job,” Nyamarembo said.

As a nonprofit, Trinity qualifies to be part of the Public Allies program. Scott Brown, assistant director of experiential learning, coordinates with the Public Allies program leaders. By helping existing nonprofits within a community, the Public Allies program strengthens these organizations.

“Public Allies’ whole focus is on leveraging and building upon a community’s existing assets and their decisions that are committed to public service,” Brown said. “Given Trinity’s commitment to community engagement, being in the San Antonio community, whether that’s through service learning or community-based research. This is another way that we leave our thumbprint in the community — by participating in the Public Ally program.”

Working with TUVAC, Nyamarembo focuses on the business side of nonprofits. Her duties include coordinating Tiger Breaks, the spring break trips that TUVAC carries out. She also oversees GivePulse, an online program that allows Trinity to keep track of the volunteer hours students complete and give the university a more complete understanding of volunteering on campus to lead to improvements.

Nyamarembo’s main focus is co-advising TUVAC and planning large-scale events, like her hygiene pack project, to promote volunteering within the Trinity community.

Brown hired Nyamarembo, and oversees the work she does as a public ally.

“What we want our public ally to do is to identify: What is going on in the community? What are the assets in the community? What are the ways that Trinity can enhance whatever is going on in the San Antonio community, to take a good program and make it a great program?” Brown said.

To do this, the public ally is expected to communicate with nonprofits in San Antonio, organizing events where Trinity students can volunteer.

Joshua Lee, sophomore and executive coordinator president of TUVAC, believes Nyamarembo has been an essential part of the TUVAC team.

“As a very experienced coordinator herself, she’s able to give all of us great advice and assurance that we’re able to coordinate as many volunteer events as we should,” Lee said. “I think Jolie definitely brings a really bright energy to our organization, something that we can definitely use, especially during staff meetings. With her hard work and dedication towards service she definitely adds a great component to our TUVAC exec team.”

Nyamarembo is unsure of her next steps when her term ends this August. She is considering doing another term with AmeriCorps, but is unsure of where she would work. Ultimately, Nyamarembo intends to be the executive director of her own nonprofit.

“I want to live and breathe the nonprofit world. My goal is to be the executive director of a nonprofit. I just don’t know what cause I care about because I care about everything — I care about animals and homeless people and housing. So I don’t know where my passion lies, but I know it would be with a nonprofit,” Nyamarembo said.

For more information about volunteering with TUVAC, you can email [email protected]