Two porch lights? Stick them over here. Three shopping cars? Push them this way. A tire and a car battery? No good to anyone.
Sixty alumni, students, staff, and faculty from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) collected these items, along with 32 bags of trash from the Matthew Henson Trail outside Washington, D.C., that is managed by the National Park Service. They volunteers descended on the park on April 8 as part of Global Give 2023, a UMGC initiative that dovetails with Volunteer Month.
The trail cleanup was designed to be a fun and productive way to bring the UMGC community together to make a difference where they live and work. Elsewhere in the United States and in Europe, other UMGC students, faculty, and alumni engaged in a range of volunteer efforts as part of Global Give.
Along with the park cleanup, five students from the university’s Environmental Awareness Club, led by Program Director Sabrina Fu, were stationed along the Rock Creek trail. They provided conservation tips and information on UMGC environmental programs to cleanup participants and local people walking through the park.
Many park visitors stopped to thank the UMGC team for the cleanup effort, and some asked for information on connecting with the Environmental Awareness Club for more advice on how they could help.
David Valenciabonilla, a disabled Marine veteran who works as a contract specialist at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, drove two hours to participate in the event. He is a student in the UMGC Master’s in Acquisition Management program. On LinkedIn, he posted on how meaningful the event was for him.
“I am grateful for the volunteer experience I had with UMGC,” he wrote. “It felt great to give back to the community with the UMGC Global Give 2023 experience. I volunteered with a group of people who were passionate about serving.”
He described the day as remarkable and rewarding.
“I learned to communicate better and collaborate more effectively with other UMGC alumni and student volunteers and staff during this unforgettable experience. I gained a deeper appreciation for how small acts of kindness can have an impact on people and the environment,” Valenciabonilla explained.
Cleanup team members received UMGC global T-shirts when they arrived at the park so they could identify each other and promote the university’s work. It was a cold morning, and Starbucks and Dunkin’ provided coffee and donuts as the volunteers learned about the Rock Creek Park, which starts in Montgomery County, and the Rock Creek Park Conservancy.
The 1,754-acre park runs through the District of Columbia, from Maryland at the north to where the creek empties into the Potomac River in Georgetown at the south. It was created in 1890 as the third national park in the United States, and it provides a woodland oasis. A network of hiking trails provides city dwellers with an escape from the urban bustle and a chance to enjoy outdoor activity and nature.
The heavily used park is maintained by National Park staff with assistance from volunteers like the UMGC group.
The cleanup was part of an expansive Initiative leading up to UMGC Giving Day on April 25 to empower and unite the UMGC community of alumni, students, and staff around the world to develop a greater sense of community to make an impact on giving back. The university sent more than 50 UMGC t-shirts to groups in the area that had offered to embrace volunteer work closer to their homes.
“This is an extension of our mission showcasing the power of education to transform lives, families, communities, and our world,” said UMGC Associate Vice President Nikki Sandoval in the Office of Institutional Advancement. “By empowering the community to give back, they develop a greater sense of pride and accomplishment from using their skills and education to help others.”
For more information on how you can make an impact, visit UMGC Global Give.