“Building a Future”
For the past 10 years, UMBC students from the University�s Habitat for Humanity chapter and their advisor, Norma Green, have spent their spring break vacation working alongside hundreds of students in high-need areas across the country in a Habitat for Humanity International program called Collegiate Challenge. This year, from March 22 through 30, Green and 20 UMBC students will build houses in Florida.
In addition, on weekends throughout the semester, groups of UMBC students renovate houses in the West Baltimore community of Sandtown. To date, more than 200 UMBC students have helped build or rebuild over 50 houses in 12 communities along the East Coast.
Habitat got its start at UMBC 11 years ago as part of the �Into the Streets� program, a one-day service project meant to introduce students to community service opportunities on campus. Students helped out at Sandtown and come back each year, restoring houses sponsored by groups from Johns Hopkins, Towson and Goucher, among others.
The UMBC chapter began participating in Collegiate Challenge when Green was lobbied by then-Community Outreach Director Ramona Arthur and some students to head to Miami for Spring Break. �I had other plans, but Spring Break in Miami sounded alright,� said Green. �When they told me to bring my sleeping bag and flashlight I wondered what I had gotten myself into.�
Yet giving up her vacation time was not a stretch for Green, who has served without fanfare as a goodwill ambassador and role model both on and off campus, reflecting the community service values the University seeks to instill in its students. By nature, Green is always concerned about the welfare of others, asking insightful questions about the needs of her communities, how those needs can be addressed, and how her energies can best be channeled to improve the lives of others. She seeks always to promote and underscore the value of education, cross-cultural understanding, self-reliance and people�s hope.
As program coordinator for The Commons, Green developed an intercultural center that plays an important role on campus. Members of UMBC�s diverse student body come together to reaffirm their own cultural values by engaging in familiar cultural activities and to interact with and learn from others about different cultures.
In addition to Green�s efforts over her 20-year career at UMBC, her work with the �Gardens of Hope� project in Baltimore City yields produce not only for people living in local shelters but also for the communities that tend the gardens and grow in self-reliance. She is also president of her community association, secretary for the Pennsylvania Avenue Redevelopment Collaborative and a member of its umbrella organization. Green�s dedication has earned her many honors, including a 2001 USM Board of Regents Staff Award, a Governor�s Citation for her work with the Maryland Charity Campaign and a citation from her state delegate for her commitment to Habitat for Humanity.
Although the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge accommodations are usually sleeping bags on the floor of a church or community center, Green says the results are worth it. �My work with Habitat for Humanity is one of the most rewarding things that I do,� she says. �I see how much we can accomplish to help others, and watch our students develop leadership skills. It�s an incredible experience.�
Current and past participants are invited to contact Norma Green regarding an upcoming UMBC Habitat for Humanity reunion.