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A Tradition of Service

Service is an integral part of our Notre Dame mission, which calls on us to build inclusive communities, to engage in service to others, and to promote social responsibility. There are many opportunities for students to engage in community service, both here in Baltimore and abroad.

Notre Dame School of Nursing Supports Wolfe Street Academy

From the Baltimore Curriculum Project blog:

Wolfe Street Academy, the Baltimore Curriculum Project and Notre Dame of Maryland University's School of Nursing have formed a partnership to create a new tutoring program at Wolfe Street Academy (WSA).

Last May Dr. Sabita Persaud, RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Coordinator of the Community Health program at Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDM), reached out to the Baltimore Curriculum Project to discuss potential opportunities for a partnership. After identifying Wolfe Street Academy's after-school program as the best fit, Sabita met with WSA Director of Extended Student Services Kathy Stroup to flesh out the details.

The NDM tutoring program began with an in-service training/orientation led by Kathy Stroup, BCP Academic Coach Sue Lattimore, and WSA Instructional Support Teacher Rosemary Byron on January 30th. This was followed by a "Get-to-Know-You" session with the tutors and their small groups of students.

"The fifteen Notre Dame nursing students were very enthusiastic and brought five more volunteers than expected," said Sue Lattimore.

The tutors engaged thirty-three WSA students in targeted academic games and homework support designed to meet the students' individual needs. Games and songs were used to reinforce key skills identified by the students' teachers.

Since February 6th, the tutors have worked with students once a week from 3:30pm -5:00pm.

"This is a wonderful boost for the Wolfe Street students and the Notre Dame volunteers report that they feel very effective and supported by Wolfe's teachers." said Sue Lattimore.

Every third or fourth session, the tutors have had a mini-training session to teach them additional games, cheers, and strategies for helping the students master skills that are directly linked to what they need to succeed in their classroom programs.

"Connecting after-school with Sabita has been a fantastic opportunity for us. In addition to providing tutoring, the nursing students are sponsoring our upcoming health fair as part of their class project." said Kathy Stroup. "Sabita has also donated prizes to help motivate students to engage in extracurricular reading. Amazing!"

We would like to thank Notre Dame of Maryland University's School of Nursing, Dr. Sabita Persaud, RN and all of the nursing students for supporting Wolfe Street Academy.

Alternative Spring Break

Over Spring Break, five NDMU students participates in United Way’s Alternative Spring Break in Washington, D.C. One of the students, Sarishma Thapa, shares her experience:

"Every time someone asked me the question “So, how was your spring break?” I had to pause for a while to think back to the Alternative Spring break . “It was great,” was all I could say. The first few times, I tried to explain all the experiences I had during this break, but my final line would always be “I cannot put it in words, you had to be there.” This spring break was very well spent and, as cliché as it sounds, one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. The Alternative spring break was organized by United Way-- a leadership and student organization and strives to spread the power of care around the community and the world. During this break, we served at various non-profit organizations including Maryland Food Bank, Moveable Feast and two schools - The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School and Benjamin Franklin High School at Baltimore. Every day was a new learning experience and new insight into world.

"The very first day of the ASB allowed everyone to socialize with each other with games and other fun activities at Boys and Girls Club, which had become our second home. This session was very fun because I met students from Florida, Texas, Kentucky and various other states who had chosen to spend their spring break serving for the community. There were students as well as teachers participating from whom I learned ample amount of tips and advices for college journey. It was nice to see people from around the country with different cultural backgrounds and to be able to relate to them. The leaders were very responsible and gave their best to make this break successful for us; everyone shared a common goal- “to be the change in the community”.

"One of the main purposes of this break was to serve in the Baltimore community. At the Maryland Food Bank, we packed and sorted over thirteen hundred pounds of donated foods and other products to be distributed.  Additionally, we were exposed to homelessness through the tour of Baltimore by our team leaders. I was very surprised to find out different facts about the city and its major poverty issues. It was a very contradicting experience to see one of the most developed countries, United States, to have places like this. That day turned my view upside down, even here in US, there are so many families suffering from homelessness and crying out for their basic needs. It made me rethink about the poor developing countries from other parts of the world. At moveable feast, we packed and delivered nutritious meals to the people with HIV, Cancer and other live threatening illnesses.

"Besides service learning, we were provided with free time with our groups. We explored different restaurants, diners, and café during this time in Baltimore City and DC. We were also given a tour of the Capitol, The White House and some other recreational sites in DC. At the elementary school, we had a recess time with the students from pre-K- 4th grade which was a very interesting experience. They were from financially challenged families who were provided with health benefits, free family meals etc. by the school; it was very hard departing from them. We also attended lecture at DC organized by the United Way where we learned about policy and advocacy.

"Personally, all the experiences I had through ASB broadened my perspective on hunger and poverty and motivated me to take abroad trips in future to learn about this issue in different parts of the world and try to make a difference in the community.ASB helped me develop leadership skills, develop critical thinking abilities and make connections with people from different cultural backgrounds. This service motivated me to integrate my knowledge to the real world and to appreciate everything I have. This was a very rewarding experience that all students should have."

The Davis Projects for Peace

What could three college students do to help improve the livelihoods of women living in Africa?

That was the vexing question facing Gabrielle Rehmeyer, Andreina Mijares-Cisneros and Amber Brehon as they wrestled with developing a proposal for the Davis Projects for Peace, an initiative that funds grassroots projects anywhere in the world.

They settled on traveling to Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa where Gabrielle lived with her missionary parents before coming to Notre Dame. Her parents had helped organize a women’s cooperative that sewed handicrafts that the members sold for family income, and that co-op offered possibilities.

“We thought about a lot of activities: doing something environmentally friendly, building a soccer field, educating expectant mothers about HIV and AIDS, nutrition,” says Amber. “Eventually, in talking with Gabrielle, we heard about her parents’ sewing project in Swaziland. We couldn’t sew. But two of us could crochet. And we thought, ‘Here is a group of 20 or so women who are already organized. If we could help them learn to crochet, this could only help their business grow.’”

Armed with a $10,000 grant from the Davis Projects for Peace and several suitcases full of colorful yarn, they set off during their summer break for Swaziland, where they spent several weeks teaching women and girls in a community called Section 19 how to crochet scarves, bags and other items that they could sell to boost their income. The money helped these women buy food and medicine—and granted them a measure of independence.“The women have been selling their products to different missionary groups that come through or in the market, and it brings in money for their community,” says Gabrielle. “Where they live there is really no means of employment, even for the men, unless they can get odd jobs here and there picking up scraps from the sugar cane fields. But that pays barely anything.”

Amber calls the experience “life changing.”

“It’s amazing how an idea that just popped into three peoples’ heads could in some way have impacted life for 20 women in Africa,” she says.

Gabrielle was amazed at how quickly the women picked up the skill. “They were coming up with new ideas when we were there,” she says. “After a few weeks of learning how to crochet, they were making things that even Amber and Andreina had never seen or didn’t know how to do. So they took it and ran with it.”

And Andreina said that although the three Notre Dame students went to Swaziland hoping to help the people there, it was the women of Section 19 who left a lasting impression.

 “We went there to try and teach a group of women a skill that might help them,” she says, “and they ended up teaching us more than we ever imagined.”


Project Homeless Connect

Sept. 19

More than 200 students, faculty and staff boarded buses and traveled downtown to the  Baltimore Convention Center to volunteer for the United Way of Central Maryland's Project Homeless Connect, which helped link Baltimore homeless community to vital services. Notre Dame had by far the best turnout of any of the local colleges that participated, which included Towson University, University of Baltimore, UMBC, University of MD-Baltimore, MICA, Stevenson, Loyola, Johns Hopkins, Morgan, Goucher and Coppin.

Notre Dame President Joan Develin Coley was among the dignitaries who addressed the volunteers before the event began.

"In some sense we might think it is a sacrifice to be here, but it is no exaggeration to say that we always gain more than we give when we extend a helping hand to another human being," Dr. Coley said. "The presence of so many people here today says something important about the homeless clients we will encounter.  It says that they matter and that we value them."

The showing by Notre Dame prompted United Way CEO Mark Furst to post on the NDMU Facebook page:

"Awesome turnout today by NDMU. Over 200 people. THANK YOU (and United Way says thanks too)."


Senior Day of Service

April 7 and May 20

Volunteers from United Way of Central Maryland, Notre Dame of Maryland University and PNC distributed summer reading bags to Head Start students to take home for the summer—filling an urgent learning need in the lives of these low-income children as Head Start experiences funding cuts due to federal sequestration.

More than 150 Notre Dame of Maryland University volunteers mobilized to help pack 3,600 bags of summer reading books on April 7 that were distributed by United Way of Central Maryland to Head Start locations across Baltimore City the following day. On May 20, these bags of summer reading books were handed out to Head Start students while volunteers from Notre Dame of Maryland University, United Way of Central Maryland and PNC Bank read stories to the children.

“Head Start is pivotal to low-income children and their families, helping lay the foundation of their academic success. Placing several new books in each home will help all of Baltimore City’s Head Start children stave off learning loss during the summer,” said Mark Furst, president and CEO of UWCM. “Literacy and a strong education are important steps to self-sufficiency.”