For some Stevens students, Spring Break was a time to give back. Nine of them – Adam McGuire, Joseph Bernardo, Michael Dougherty, Tony Worthington, Frank Belardo, Katie Quish, Dominiki Rak, Ewelina Tcakz and Justina Kopec – spent theirs repairing and rehabilitating houses for low-income families in association with Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge program.
This year – the seventh straight that a group of Stevens students have participated in the Collegiate Challenge – brought the group to Portland, Ore., an area with vastly mixed incomes and a large homeless population. The Stevens team, accompanied by Stevens Professor Jonathan Wharton, worked with other volunteers from the Portland/MetroEast Affiliate on a site made up of 45 lots, which will eventually provide homes to roughly 105 children.
“It’s a good feeling to help those in need,” said McGuire, president of the Stevens student chapter. “Habitat is a great organization because it has a very thorough application process, which requires the applicant to work on their own house as well as their neighbors, so very often we work with these people and get to know them throughout the build. At the end of the week, the Habitat workers presented each of us with a thank you card that was made by one of the children that will be moving into a house. It helped us all realize how special it really was.”
Spring Break certainly isn’t the only time Stevens partners with Habitat for Humanity. In 2011, an interdisciplinary student team from Stevens participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a national competition which challenges collegiate teams to design solar-powered houses. Working with students from The New School, they designed a zero-energy dwelling which later became an affordable home for a Habitat for Humanity family.
In addition, the current Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford is actually a descendant of the Stevens founding family. Reckford attended the Stevens Family Reunion this fall, where he was extremely impressed with Stevens’ focus on using technology and innovation to contribute to society, especially though the Solar Decathlon project. McGuire also had the chance to share his experiences volunteering for the organization directly with Reckford at the event.
This year, the Stevens Habitat for Humanity student chapter became an officially recognized student organization. This group has already been involved in builds and activities with the Paterson and Jersey City affiliates.