Tag: Longhorns

What Starts Here… Really Changes the World

A Humanity First member working as a disaster relief volunteer.  Photo courtesy of Humanity First

A Humanity First member working as a disaster relief volunteer.
Photo courtesy of Humanity First



Anahita Pardiwalla, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

With hundreds of student-run humanitarian groups at the University of Texas to choose from, Irenla Bajrovic did not think she’d have trouble finding one that would be willing to help a cause close to her heart. Bajrovic, a natural-born Bosnian, wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide by organizing a fundraiser. She did not anticipate finding her answer in the merely days old organization, Humanity First.

Coordinating a fundraising dinner is a feat for any organization, never mind a newborn one with just six members. Yet, founder and executive director, Usama Malik, was eager for Humanity First to make its grand debut. About $10,000 later, Malik and his peers were excited about the future of their new Texas Chapter.

A year later, 102 members stronger and with numerous successful events under its belt, Humanity First is more confident than ever. Under its motto “serving mankind” the international organization promotes peace and provides aid to victims of natural disasters and human conflicts.

Malik, however, has tailored the Texas Chapter to stand for more than just the humanitarian relief drafted in their motto.

“One that provides a platform for other organizations and other students to accomplish similar goals,” said Malik.

Through this idea of diversifying the Texas Chapter, the organization has been able to work for a number of different causes—all outside the traditional realm of Humanity First’s mission statement.

These causes have ranged from fundraising for victims of domestic violence to raising awareness of childhood cancer, from feeding the homeless to volunteering at elderly rehabilitation centers. Most recently, the organization assembled hygienic kits for homeless veterans.


A few of Humanity First's milestones. Photos courtesy of Google Images and Bosana Foundation

A few of Humanity First’s milestones.
Photos courtesy of Google Images and Bosana Foundation

The group’s scope is wide and limitless; and members are proud to be a part of an international organization that still maintains a local focus.

“You’re touching someone’s life, and it doesn’t matter how big the scale is, as long as you’re helping someone,” said member Marina Khaled.

Upcoming events include a charity fashion show and a culture appreciation night. Learn more at http://www.humanityfirsttx.org/.


Humanity First has worked for numerous causes since its birth last spring. Check out a timeline of some of their past events here:


Learn more about the Humanity First – Texas Chapter in the video below. The members of Humanity First made hygiene kits for homeless veterans and are currently in production for a fashion show in partnership with Voices Against Violence.

Don’t Mess with Sherry Tucci

By Adam Beard, Juan Cortez, Heather Dyer and Landon Pederson

As she was growing up, Sherry Tucci wanted to be a Power Ranger. Today, the junior at the University of Texas at Austin is a member of Texas Taekwondo and in her own words, “sort of a Power Ranger.”

“All I need are the huge megazords and fancy costumes,” Tucci said.

Tucci says that practicing with the boys is no problem for her.

Tucci says that practicing with the boys is no problem for her. Photo by Heather Dyer.

In two years, Tucci has been named captain of Texas Taekwondo and won a handful of medals, including a gold medal at a Texas Christian University tournament in 2013. She also earned a bronze medal during her freshman year at the Collegiate National Tournament.

Tucci started taekwondo at nine years old after her parents asked if she wanted to join a club. She competed for three years until she quit at the age of 12.

“Throughout most of middle school and all of high school, I stuck to academics,” Tucci said. “At the same time, I kept feeling like I wanted to get back into taekwondo just because I was no longer active in any way, and also because I missed it.”

Kicking is a key feature of Taekwondo and sets it apart from other forms of martial arts. Photo by Heather Dyer.

Kicking is a key feature of taekwondo and sets it apart from other forms of martial arts. Photo by Heather Dyer.

That’s exactly what Tucci did.

“When I came to UT, I sought out the Texas Taekwondo table at the Party on the Plaza,” Tucci said. “I joined, showed up and ended up really liking it.”

Other than missing taekwondo and wanting to stay active, Tucci has something to prove to

herself. Before quitting at a young age, Tucci claimed a black belt title, something that she rarely put to use after she earned it.

“When I was a kid, I got my black belt,” Tucci said. “I didn’t feel worthy of a black belt title, and I wanted to make it worth it.” Tucci’s black belt title as a kid was for junior level competition and was for children under the age of 16.


Josh Kivlovitz, the president of Texas Taekwondo, acts as more of a team builder than a technique builder. Photo by Heather Dyer.

She arrived at her first ever Texas Taekwondo practice far from being a perfect fighter.

“I started from the bottom as a yellow belt, which is like beginner status,” Tucci said. “Now, I am one rank behind black belt and am so close to getting there.”

Tucci’s pending black belt title will not be a pure result from competing against females. She fights males too.

“It’s so frustrating to fight her because she has figured out how to fight against stronger and taller fighters,” said Daniel Yun, the vice president of Texas Taekwondo. “When we’re in here in this room together, we’re all one group. Gender doesn’t matter.”

While it is a tough task for Tucci to spar against the boys, she embraces it.


Team members say that physical strength in the legs is one of the most important qualities to have when practicing taekwondo. Photo by Heather Dyer.

“I personally think it’s better because the guys are generally bigger than me and stronger than me,” Tucci said. “So to practice with them makes me stronger and better prepares me for competition.”

Women are fairly prevalent in the sport, but at Texas, they haven’t been. Yun mentioned that could change with Tucci recently being named the membership coordinator.

“She’s the energy of the team, and she brings diversity to the group,” Yun said. “We are definitely going to be a growing team in terms of girls on the team going forward.”

According to Joe Van, the head coach of Texas Taekwondo, Tucci has grown immensely in her two years.

“I would say her mental growth has been way greater than her physical growth,” Van said. “But overall, she is just a really physically fit person who I am lucky enough to get to coach and watch.”

Within two years as a part of Texas Taekwondo, Tucci has already accomplished what some couldn’t achieve over four years. It would be easy for her to ride the pine.

Jumping is a key way to prepare for Taekwondo practice. Photo by Heather Dyer.

Jumping is a key way to prepare for taekwondo practice. Photo by Heather Dyer.

Tucci is here for about a year and a half longer, and as one of the leaders of the team, she is very clear about what her goals are.

“Competition wise, I’d like to medal at the Collegiate National Tournament as a black belt,” Tucci said. “But in terms of leaving a legacy for people who come to UT Taekwondo behind me, I would kind of like to be remembered as the, you know, the kickass small girl who really fought for it.”




















The Red River Rivalry: More Than Just a Game

By: Kari Counter, Caroline Manning, Monica Zhang, Alsha Khan

Every year, girls asked to OU weekend purchase and decorate coolers with school spirit for the weekend. Credit: Kari Counter

Every year, girls asked to OU weekend purchase and decorate coolers with school spirit for the weekend. Credit: Kari Counter

Fried food, football, bar tabs, dinners, carnival rides, painted coolers, and hundreds of college kids taking over Dallas hotels; that was the scene this past weekend for University of Texas students as they piled on buses to experience the annual Texas/OU weekend.

Every year in October UT students make their way to Dallas for the University of Texas v. Oklahoma University football game, otherwise known as the Red River Rivalry. The rivalry between UT and OU dates back to 1900, when the two schools had their very first meeting, and has been played in Dallas since 1912, except for 1913 (Houston), 1922 (Norman, Okla.), and 1923 (Austin). While this game may be the primary reason behind the weekend’s existence, it is far from the centerpiece of the weekend. Sophomore Julia Dunnigan looked forward to her first OU weekend for more than just the game having heard about the large social atmosphere of the weekend.

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“It’s become so much of a social thing. Part of just the aspect of OU is just the preparation for the weekend,” said Dunnigan. “I think it is equally if not more social than just a rivalry between two schools in football.”


Video- Red River Rivalry: More Than Just a Game


Students put hours of preparation before leaving for Dallas, with many not even attending the game to rather spend their time at sponsored events, the Texas State Fair, and the hotel. Tradition for UT students follows that the boys will ask a date to accompany them to the weekend and pay for the hotel, transportation, and optional ticket to the game. Girls asked to the weekend purchase and paint a cooler as well as fill it with goodies including snacks and beverages. Boys can spend upwards of $500 while the girls, depending on how much they spend on decorating and filling the cooler, can spend up to $300.

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“I put a substantial amount of time into it. I made a cooler I painted it and all those kinds of things,” said Dunnigan.  “Then I made a second cooler, like a soft cooler, and went out and got food and made cookies. Just a lot of time preparing for it.”

Going into the weekend, many UT students did not have much faith in their 3-2 longhorn football team prompting more students than usual to skip the game. Senior Shannon Brady, attending the weekend for her second time, chose to skip the game and enjoy the fair instead. Even with the longhorn win Brady does not regret skipping out on the game.

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“I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to the game even if we had been having a good season. I’m not a big football fan and [the weekend] is much more than the game,” said Brady. “I go for the drinking and partying with my friends.”

Students, like Brady, who do not attend the game still ride buses to the fair and spend the day enjoying the fair rides, fried foods, and games. After the game many organizations have bar tabs and dinners Saturday night for the students to enjoy while some also have these events Friday night. For students who do not attend the game events such as the bus ride, bar tabs, and dinners as well as just hanging out with friends at the hotel make the weekend well worth it.

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Some girls pick designs that personalize their cooler to their dates favorite songs. tv shows, and movies. credit: Kari Counter

Some girls pick designs that personalize their cooler to their dates favorite songs. tv shows, and movies. credit: Kari Counter

Even students who regretted missing the game due to the Longhorn win still enjoyed the weekend and made great memories because of its social aspect. Senior John Woodiel, who was not too happy with his decision to skip out on the game, is thankful there is so much more to the weekend and did not feel like skipping the game did anything to ruin his senior OU weekend.

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“I didn’t think there was any way we were going to win so I didn’t want to spend the money, but I definitely wish I had gone now,” said Woodiel. “It didn’t ruin my weekend though. We still had tabs and dinners and I got to spend the weekend partying with all my friends at a hotel.”

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UT and OU rankings have affected game ticket sales for years. Credit: Monica Zhang