Students for a Better World: The Beyond the Classroom Blog

Stories, Resources, & More from the Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Program at University of Maryland

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Civic Advocacy for a Nuclear Free World

By Lynza McKoy, Beyond the Classroom Student

On Thursday, March 31 through Friday, April 1, 2016, President Obama welcomed world leaders from more than 50 nations and four international organizations at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC.  This was a historical event that had one of the world’s largest gatherings of Heads of State designed to enhance international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism.

President Obama met with the world leaders to secure nuclear materials all over the world. However, at the Nuclear Security Summit, the issue of abolishing nuclear weapons was not even a topic of discussion.

No More Nukes!

As I stepped off the Metro to protest at the Nuclear Security Summit, the first thing my eyes saw was Global Zero’s inflatable nuclear missile directly in the middle of McPherson Square. Global Zero activists from all over the United States gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest this event. Along with them, women from different organizations were shouting and clapping as they were listening to the speaker. As I proceeded closer to the rally, my classmate and I immediately picked up our signs, and then began chanting along with other citizens: No More Nukes! No More Nukes!

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Lynza McKoy at the Global Zero rally on April 1, 2016!

Each of us who participated in the event wanted to address the threat of nuclear weapons. There are over 15,000 nuclear weapons on this Earth, and citizens have a right to know where they are located. As long as there are 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence, on our planet, how is nuclear security possible?

Being at that rally and protesting against nuclear weapons, I got to experience for the first time what it is like to fight for something you believe in, to fight for a civic issue that matters no only to you but your family, community, and you country. Being an advocate, and standing next to people who share the same viewpoint as me, made me appreciate, that together citizens can make a change.

I do believe that we can envision a world without nuclear weapons, if each government focuses on not becoming more of a militarized society built on weapons, but instead builds a society that fosters mutual understanding and cooperation among all peoples.

Just like me, men have made many strides in technology when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. However, there may come a point in time, when technology may overrun our society and then there will be no turning back. As a citizen, I think a way to enhance security and promote the nonproliferation of weapons at a global level, is to build trust, respect, and acknowledge other countries in all aspects.

We Demand Zero!

After the Global Zero advocacy event, I spoke with a journalist from one of Washington, D.C’s. local newspapers, and shared my insights with her about why I came to this civic issue event. I am a University of Maryland College Park sophomore in Beyond the Classroom, a civic engagement and civic learning program, which prepares active and responsible citizens for leadership in a complex, multi-cultural, and global context. When I heard that there was going to be a protest against nuclear weapons in Washington, D.C., I just knew that I wanted to become engaged and make my voice heard!

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Lynza McKoy is a sophomore with Beyond the Classroom, who is majoring in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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A (hopefully good) blog post on what makes a great blog post

By Karen Mawdsley, BTC Student

These days, it seems like everyone and their mother has a blog. With so many blogs out there, creating another one can seem like a pointless endeavor. But blogs can also be one of the most valuable tools for organizations, especially those in the nonprofit sector.

So what separates the great from the mediocre? Knowing how to write an effective blog post.

As a senior journalism student at the University of Maryland who has worked with both media outlets and nonprofit organizations, I set out to define what makes a great blog post. Continue reading

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Social Media for Social Change: Addressing the Issue of Health Disparities

by Jennifer Rottenberg, BTC Student

At Community of Hope’s Family Health and Birth Center (FHBC), they are having an unusual problem. A birthing center for low-income families, FHBC has seen a rise in privately-insured women over the past three years, and has struggled to attract the low-income women it aims to serve. FHBC has negative birth outcomes that are half the national average. However, the African American women, particularly those of low income whom have the worst birth outcomes, are not taking advantage of the high-quality healthcare option being offered to them. The problem at FBHC highlights the issue of health care disparities that is very prevalent in the United States.

In this blog post, I propose creating a social media platform for hospitals in low-income and racially diverse areas, where people affected by health disparities could discuss patient care, services provided, and outcomes– first, an overview of the issue of health care disparities in the U.S.: Continue reading

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Crossing Cultures at the Sakura Matsuri

On April 12, 2014, University of Maryland Beyond the Classroom students volunteered for the 54th annual Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese cultural street festival held each year by the non-profit Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C. as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Two of the BTC student volunteers, Nora Strumpf and Grace Hochheimer, share about their experiences below. BTC Assistant Director Meredith Collier also volunteered at the festival as a member of the international NPO Table For Two; you can read her blog post on the TFT DC blog here.

BTC students at 2014 Sakura Matsuri

BTC student volunteers at the 2014 Sakura Matsuri. The authors of this blog post, Nora and Grace, are seen second from left and second from right, respectively. Photo by Meredith Collier.

Reflection on Sakura Matsuri by Nora Strumpf, BTC Student:

The Sakura Matsuri Street Festival was held by the Japan-American Society of Washington, D.C., and included a number of Japanese performances, food, art and more. As a volunteer at this festival, I learned a bit about how nonprofit organizations run large-scale events, which is a career interest of mine as a public relations major. Continue reading

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TerpLift: Taking Action on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence on College Campuses

by Lauren Murray, BTC Student

TerpLift defined College is known for a lot of things—learning new things in interesting classes, meeting new people, joining cool clubs and going to fun parties.  Amongst all these things that make college a great experience though, there are still the bad things that people like to push to the side and pretend that they don’t exist.

One of these topics people tend to overlook is sexual assault and rape on college campuses.

Cases like the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case have brought attention to issue of sexual assault on campus, but in reality sexual assault is occurring way more often than the occasional incident that gets news attention.  According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) “a college with 10,000 students could experience as many as 350 rapes per year”.  Furthermore, RAINN has also found that 1 in 5 college students have experienced violence coming from someone who they have been intimate with.  With such a high rate of rape on college campuses, it is important that students are aware of how they can protect themselves, their peers and what they can do to prevent sexual assault on their campus.

In response to this situation on college campuses, University of Maryland students created TerpLift, a student group created this semester as a part of UMD’s Beyond the Classroom Program.  TerpLift’s goal is to help educate students about sexual assault and domestic violence on campus and the resources available for those dealing with these issues provided by the University of Maryland. Continue reading

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Maryland Reads Day: Celebrating Reading, Learning, and Mentorship

By Grace Hochheimer, BTC Student

Maryland Reads Day; photo via America Reads*America Counts.

Maryland Reads Day; photo via America Reads*America Counts.

300 kids, a few dozen chaperones, and hundreds of volunteers all together running around Cole Field House. This is what Maryland Reads Day looked like on Friday, May 2, 2014.

Reads Day was the culmination of my whole semester as an intern with the America Reads Program. Maryland Reads Day is the end of the year celebration for all of the students who participated in the America Reads program throughout the year. The America Reads program works with first and second grade students in Prince George’s County of Maryland who are below grade level in reading. This involves one-on-one tutoring from one of our roughly 80 mentors each semester until hopefully they catch up to their classmates.
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Social Media for Social Change: Can Social Media Curb Childhood Obesity?

by Nora Strumpf, BTC Student

The power of social media should be embraced as a viable option to improve our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.

 Childhood obesity is an epidemic that cannot be ignored. According to the American Psychological Association, “approximately 20% of our youth are now overweight with obesity rates in preschool age children increasing at an alarming speed.” Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that childhood obesity has made significant progress in the United States – however, this has been proven as premature upon a second analysis of the data.


Childhood obesity places youth at risk for having a multitude of health problems as adults, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and forms of cancer. Additionally, childhood obesity leads to poor self-esteem and depression. In recent times, we have seen childhood obesity worsen. Although first lady Michelle Obama has brought this issue to our attention and has shown excitement about progress, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has proven that childhood obesity rates have not actually improved (  This issue is certainly not one that our society isn’t aware of; numerous efforts have already been made to try and resolve this problem. Specifically, organizations such as the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) have been dedicated to educating the public about the dangers and prevalence of this issue. Recently, the OAC signed a nutrition agreement with the backing of hundreds of organizations, which sought to ensure that healthier foods would be sold in schools. However, the amendment did not pass.

Curbing the childhood obesity epidemic is a process that requires a multi-sectoral approach. Through the mobilization of nonprofit organizations, private sectors, governments and the civil society, a more comprehensive strategy to resolving this issue can be made. Continue reading