NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The kickoff to the Pineywoods Fair also begins the largest and most expansive event the Nacogdoches Exposition and Civic Center hosts all year.
"We are a very small staff, seven including myself, and this is a very big event, and we really wanted to get creative with who we asked to volunteer this year," said Anita Scott, Executive Director of the civic center. "We also really wanted a chance to instill leadership skills, and show students what it means to be in the real world."
For students applying for colleges, or just wanting volunteer opportunity, they were given the chance to apply and become the first ever Student Ambassador group the Expo center has recruited. It's a program organizers say will ensure the fair runs smoothly.
"There is just a lot going on so when we can have some extra hands, eyes, and extra smiles, that's really what we needed," Scott said.
She said they wanted to know that the students selected would possess the determination and ability to handle high stress situations, and represent the civic center, as well as all of Nacogdoches well.
"We contacted the counselors in the schools, and we wanted them to tell us which students were wanting to further their education, and they were able to tell us some names and get us the applications," Scott said.
The opportunity for one student, who said the last few months have been dedicated to preparing for college applications, was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
"My counselor came to me and said there were 24 positions open, so I wanted to get my permission slip signed as soon as possible to get those hours," Austin Sharbono said. "I saw everyone in the class raise their hands, so at first I was worried I wouldn't get selected."
However, he did, and volunteering has made him aware of the hard work that goes on behind the fun and flashing lights so many East Texans have come to love.
"You don't really understand all the work and the time people have to dedicate to making sure these rides are set up, all the traveling they have to do, so it just gives you a good feeling giving back to them making their lives easier," Sharbono said.
Eight different counties are represented through the student ambassadors, and although it's a first time program they hope it will continue to grow.
"With this being the first year, we have always wanted to do it so we are just so excited with the response and how great things are going," Scott said.
Providing East Texas students an opportunity to volunteer, while helping their future is one thing the director is most excited about.
"They will get a certificate at the end of the fair, that has their service hours, and they will be able to use it to get scholarships," Scott said.
As of now the only event the Student Ambassador program has recruited for is the Pineywoods Fair, but organizers hope to expand the opportunity to become a year-round process.