Collegiate Challenge celebrates 20 years
Collegiate Challenge celebrates 20 years
More than 200 students gathered in Miami during the week of March 16, 2009 to build homes in the Jordan Commons neighborhood and to celebrate 20 years of Habitat’s Collegiate Challenge program.
“Jordan Commons is the house that Collegiate Challenge built,” said Anne Manning, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami. The neighborhood—one of the largest Habitat communities in the United States—features 187 brightly-colored houses, each peppered with individual personality in the forms of flower planters, rocking chairs and children’s toys.
The homes were built by eager Collegiate Challenge participants over the past 17 years. Future crews will build houses in a new community south of Jordan Commons.
Students from Nova Scotia Community College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, West Virginia University and North Dakota State University, along with students from two college prep academies in Baltimore, Maryland—The Bryn Mawr School and The Park School—participated in the weeklong build.
Dozens of employees from State Farm (the underwriter of Habitat’s youth programs and sponsor of the 20th anniversary event), prospective Habitat homeowners, Florida legislative aides, AmeriCorps members, HFH of Greater Miami staff and Habitat for Humanity International representatives joined the students for the anniversary event.
During the celebration, HFHI’s chief executive officer, Jonathan Reckford, spoke to the students, congratulating them for their contributions and recognizing Collegiate Challenge’s impact over the past 20 years.
“Just this year, 12,000 students raised almost $2 million and fundamentally changed the trajectory of lives for children all across the country,” Reckford said. “It’s an enormous contribution, especially in these difficult times.
“Whatever it is that inspires thousands of motivated young people like you to rise to the Collegiate Challenge every year, I hope and pray that you never lose that,” he added. “Because the world needs you now more than ever.”
During the week, young people came together for devotions every morning as the sun was coming up. Fast friendships were made while laying sod, gobbling up lunch or playing spontaneous games of Red Rover.
Over and over, as students hammered roofs, installed drywall and completed other construction duties, they reflected that Collegiate Challenge is not about giving up their spring break. Instead, participants view it as an opportunity to have fun, learn new skills, meet new people and help someone else.
“I love doing stuff like this,” said Sophie Crooke, a 17-year-old junior from The Bryn Mawr School. “I love building, and it’s a way to give back to the community. I knew last year that I had to come back. And I’m having twice as much fun. I’ve met so many new people, and I feel like I am paying the rent for the space I occupy.”
Julie Rogers, a science teacher and Habitat for Humanity campus chapter adviser at The Park School in Baltimore, has seen Collegiate Challenge have a similar impact on dozens of students. Fifteen years ago, she chaperoned her first Collegiate Challenge event. She told herself then that she would do one every year for the rest of her life, and she has kept that commitment.
“Empowering youth for today, I think, is the best thing we can do for our world economy,” Rogers said. “I watch them feel that they are important and that they are important while doing something productive.
“They spend a full week not getting in trouble, getting back to the basics of what is really important to them: genuine laughter, learning skills, meeting people and feeling like they’ve made a difference in the world.”
In the 20-year history of the Collegiate Challenge program, some 166,000 young people have contributed more than $15.5 million and countless hours to Habitat’s mission of providing simple, decent, affordable housing to people who need it.
Want to learn more about Collegiate Challenge?
Visit Collegiate Challenge.
Watch the Collegiate Challenge video.