· 5 min read
Cudjo, volunteers support student parents via Holidays for Little Huskers
Meet Domonique Cudjo, the assistant director of the university’s Women’s Center. She provides a range of supports, services and programs to help Huskers be successful. Well before this holiday season, she began coordinating gifts for students with children through the annual Holidays with Little Huskers program.
Talk a bit about your role in the Women’s Center.
As the assistant director of the Women’s Center, I am responsible for coordinating the development, implementation and evaluation of programs and services related to women’s leadership, gender equity and the evolving concepts of gender. The position also entails promoting awareness and inclusion of women, gender equity and sexuality/sexual health. The position also services students with children by creating and implementing initiatives for students and their children.
I was drawn to the position because of my passion for gender equity and providing resources for students, faculty and staff to be successful individuals. I also like that there was a focus on assisting students with children. They can sometimes be overlooked, so it is great the Women’s Center sees their needs and works to fulfill them through programs like Holidays for Little Huskers.
What is Holidays for Little Huskers?
Holidays for Little Huskers is a program hosted by the Women’s Center that connects children of current UNL students to donors for the holiday season. The Women’s Center collects information about the children and parent, then sends the child’s preferences to a donor. The donor then buys the gifts and drops them off at the Women’s Center. The Women’s Center then connects with the parent of the child(ren) to arrange pick-up.
Talk a bit about the work that goes into coordinating a program like this.
Planning for Holidays for Little Huskers started as early as December 2021 to create an updated timeline for 2022. The implementation for this year’s changes started in early August by updating the participant and donor sign-up, finalizing the sign-up deadline, and scheduling communication about the program.
The easy part is notifying the campus community that the program is back again and time to sign up. Sign-up for students and donors started Oct. 3 and closed around Oct. 28. It is early for parents to start thinking about holiday gifts; however, this gives donors the chance to purchase gifts in November, so the Women’s Center staff have time before the last week of classes to prepare for gift pick-up, which occurs Dec. 5-9 this year.
Donors are emailed their gift list, which can range from one child to nine children for some sponsors. The largest sponsorship request was 16 children. Donors are also asked to provide a gift for the hard-working student parent as well. We want the students to know they are thought of as well during the holiday season.
A lot of coordination is involved before and after the gifts arrive. Donors are informed at sign-up when to drop off gifts to the Women’s Center. This year’s deadline was Nov. 22. The Women’s Center staff prepare the office and room 345 for the gifts by designating where things will go. The staff also labels the gifts with the parent’s and child’s name, then puts them in alphabetical order by the parent’s name. This makes it easier to locate the gift bags for parent pick-up.
What is your favorite part of organizing Holidays for Little Huskers?
My favorite part of Holidays for Little Huskers is the enjoyment people get from participating, whether they are the student-parent or donor. Several donors shared their excitement with the staff while dropping off gifts. They enjoyed the process of finding the gifts or working with their office to make the holidays memorable for the students and their children. Several students expressed their gratitude for the program. As one student shared, they were experiencing financial difficulties. Holidays for Little Huskers helps provide gifts for their child and alleviates stress for the parent.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to make an impact this holiday season?
My advice for anyone wanting to make an impact this holiday season or in general is thinking beyond yourself. This can be volunteering at a non-profit organization, providing gifts for a family, getting involved in the local community, providing hygiene products or blankets to the homeless. There are opportunities throughout the year for folks to donate to services like Husker Pantry. I can go on forever with how people can make a positive change for someone’s life.
What or who inspires you?
I am inspired by a variety of people in my life. They all make me want to do better for one reason or another, so I can be my best possible self and live a life that I hope to be proud of when I look at my accomplishments years from now.
How can students utilize the Women’s Center on a day-to-day basis?
The Women’s Center is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. for anyone who wants to stop in for the services we provide. We are located on the third floor of the Nebraska Union, room 340. We promote sexual health by providing safer sex kits that come in latex, latex-free and flavored. Each kit has three condoms and a packet of lube. We also have internal condoms and dental dams. Students can also seek us out for pregnancy tests and menstrual products. Anyone interested in those services must complete the online forms located on the Women’s Center’s website.
We also have a hang-out space for students looking for a place to study. They can also check out a variety of books based on various genres and topics from the Women’s Center’s library. There are also volunteer opportunities for individuals looking to make a difference on campus.
Our services are for anyone seeking help no matter their gender identity.