Last June when I was hired by the University of Maryland Extension to coordinate programming at the University of Maryland’s Center for Educational Partnership, one of the first people I met with was Prince George’s County Council Member Eric Olson. Council Member Olson suggested that a worthwhile project would be to encourage rain barrels in the area, so I hired two University of Maryland students to complete a feasibility study of a county-wide rain barrel program. The Office of Sustainability advertised the two new internship positions, and Gabrielle Rovegno, an undergraduate studying Environmental Science and Technology, and Mallori McDowell, a graduate student in Marine and Estuarine Environmental Science, were hired.
Gabrielle and Mallori spent the fall semester working on their study. During their research, they contacted numerous organizations around the country, met with dozens of community leaders from Prince George’s County, and spoke with local residents to gauge interest in these potential programs. Gabrielle and Mallori established wonderful rapport with hundreds of people in order to improve the Anacostia watershed and the Chesapeake Bay through both programming and policy. To wrap up their semester-long project, Gabrielle and Mallori presented their impressive report to County Council Member Eric Olson, who then invited them to present to the County Council’s Committee on Transportation, Housing and the Environment.
After the presentation to the council committee, Gabrielle and Mallori received word that Council Members Mary Lehman and Eric Olson submitted a bill to add $30,000 to the county budget for rain barrels. The Committee on Transportation, Housing and the Environment approved the measure, and it was added to the county budget!
This Saturday, the interns will launch the first rain barrel workshop for Prince George’s County Residents. Future plans involve seeking grants or other funding sources to expand this program. When reflecting on her internship experience, Gabrielle, said, “I don’t even have the words to do this internship justice in how it’s transformed my life … due to the nature of Extension there are so many more opportunities and avenues to venture out into.” Due to their incredible work, I nominated Gabrielle and Mallori for the Rebecca Williams Award to Commitment to Social Change through the University of Maryland.
This story outlines the power of partnerships between the University of Maryland campus and the Prince George’s County community—and also partnerships between various university departments—to increase educational opportunities for students while improving the local community.