Civic Engagement Project Connects Students to their Home Neighborhood of NoMA

Civic Engagement Project Connects Students to their Home Neighborhood of NoMA

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July 24, 2014

TWC students seeking a civic engagement project close to home got their wish this summer, thanks to a new partnership with the Business Improvement District (BID) in NoMa – the Washington, D.C. neighborhood that houses TWC’s Residential and Academic Facility. NoMa, short for “North of Massachusetts Avenue,” is one of Washington’s fastest growing neighborhoods, attracting hordes of young professionals and significant financial investment that’s making the neighborhood one of Washington’s newest hotspots.


“Since the RAF opened in 2010, TWC interns have proven to be engaged, interested and curious about their surroundings in NoMa,” said Rachel Davis, director of marketing for NoMa BID – whose board of directors includes TWC President Mike Smith. NoMa is a perfect test case for the Community Development civic engagement project, in which students explore how public and private partnerships help build thriving neighborhoods – particularly those centered on the expansion of public transit. “Many TWC students have indicated a new interest in learning about their own communities when they leave their time in NoMa and TWC,” Davis added.


That certainly was the case for Laurel Brown, a TWC student from the University of Rochester in New York.


“While it’s easy to live in an area and get acquainted with your favorite attractions, it’s not as simple to truly get to know your community and help it thrive,” said Brown, an intern at Enroll America. This civic engagement project “is a wonderful opportunity to learn about what it means to be a member of the NoMa community and make a significant impact on people's lives.”


As part of the project, students learned about the history of NoMa, historically known as “Swampoodle” because of the neighborhood’s abundance of swamps and puddles. Swampoodle witnessed its first wave of revitalization when two Washington train stations merged in 1907 to create Union Station, transforming the neighborhood into a transportation hub.


More than 100 years after the proliferation of mass transit in the area, NoMa BID’s task is to facilitate a new wave of commercial and residential restoration, making the neighborhood not only the area hugging Union Station but a community where businesses and citizens alike can thrive. TWC students recently braved some signature D.C. summer heat for a one-hour tour to view some of the restoration efforts taking place around the neighborhood.


Jessica Sullivan, an intern at Epic PR Group from the University of Florida, enjoyed the tour and getting Davis’ perspective about what NoMa may look like in the not-too-distant future. She also appreciated getting to know Davis, who has followed a career path Sullivan didn’t previously know much about.


“I've heard the term 'community development' many times before,” Sullivan said, “but I haven’t met anyone who actually dedicated their professional life to creating an asset-based community from the bottom-up.”


To view photos from the event, visit the Flickr gallery

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