Through her work as a University of Maryland School of Public Policy Rawlings Leadership Undergraduate Fellow and a finalist in the School of Public Policy’s 2014 Do Good Challenge, current student Holly Cuozzo learned how to work with others to create social change.
Cuozzo is a junior at the University of Maryland, majoring in International Community Development through Individual Studies. She says seeing a poster for the Rawlings program is what peaked her interest, “I remember seeing a poster that said, ‘What would the world look like if you had 24 hours to change it?’ That was all the convincing I needed to apply.”
The Rawlings Leadership Undergraduate Fellows program had an impact on Cuozzo’s college experience. “Being in the Rawlings Fellows program was a truly amazing experience for me,” she says. “The classes were long and the time commitment was a bit much with my hectic schedule, but it was all worth it because I got to work and learn alongside a small group of students and professors who are not only insanely impressive on paper, but just wonderful people with great hearts.”
Being a part of the Do Good Challenge was unreal for me. I knew that participating would mean big things for the Recovered Food CSA, so I was excited to compete alongside my coworkers.Holly Cuozzo SPP Student
She adds, “We got to sit in on a DC Board of Education meeting, listen to panels of speakers with incredible stories, and talk to people who are out in the world doing amazing things. It really just gave me a lot of hope that even as a person who might be too idealistic, I can and will create positive change. It was all very uplifting, but also grounding because I learned how to consider the logistics and make things actually happen. It's great real-world experience that a lot of people don't get the chance to have in college.”
She also says that a large benefit of the program was being able to work closely with others. “My favorite part about the Rawlings program was definitely the cohort model,” Cuozzo says. “For an entire academic year, you are working with the same group of students and professors and you all get so close. It’s such an uplifting environment. All of the people in the program have done and are doing fantastic things, it really motivated me to work harder so I could be half as impressive as they are.”
As part of the Rawlings program, students participate in activities for two consecutive semesters. They take a three-credit leadership course, PUAF 302 “Leadership: Philosophy, Policy, and Praxis,” introducing them to public policy and social justice issues. In their second semester, they take a three-credit PUAF course that relates to public leadership. In addition, they attend monthly leadership-development workshops, complete community action projects and complete an internship.
Cuozzo worked with the Food Recovery Network and helped pilot the Recovered Food CSA for her required internship. “Ben Simon, from Food Recovery Network, came to talk to my leadership class,” she says. “He told us about the organization and all the good they were doing. I sent him an email on my way to my next class and asked if he needed a spring intern. He and Evan Lutz, the founder of the Recovered Food CSA, interviewed me and gave me the position.”
Working with the Food Recovery Network led Cuozzo to be a part of the 2014 Do Good Challenge. “Our Do Good Challenge project was the Recovered Food CSA,” she says. “Basically, we sold 5-pound bags of produce to students for $5, and for every bag we sold, we donated 5 pounds of food to a needy family in the Washington, DC area. The funds served the Food Recovery Network organization. We wanted to have yet another way to show students just how easy it can be to reduce food waste and eat healthy food on a budget.”
To participate in the Do Good Challenge, student teams worked to advocate, raise funds, organize volunteers and create awareness for charitable causes to complete for more than $20,000 in cash prizes for their cause. The Recovered Food CSA was part of the venture track of the competition, for student-founded and student-run organizations whose efforts during the Challenge were focused on taking the organizations to the next level. They received third place and $1,000 for the organization.
“Being a part of the Do Good Challenge was unreal for me. I knew that participating would mean big things for the Recovered Food CSA, so I was excited to compete alongside my coworkers,” Cuozzo says. “I definitely didn't expect the stress of working on our presentation while still running the actual CSA, or the debilitating nervousness I felt before and during the ceremony, but it was so incredibly worth it. I felt completely out of my element talking to the other competitors and judges, but it was an invaluable experience.”
She has also been adding international travel to her college experience by planning to participate in the School of Public Policy’s winter course in India during the 2015 Winter Term. Cuozzo says after college she hopes to work with children and to improve education. “I want to eventually teach and lead after-school programs during the school year and then take high school students from impoverished areas on service trips during the summer so they can see the world and do some good,” she says. “I’m still working out the logistics of this, but an extremely bright person once told me that if you tell enough people that you’re going to do something, you’ll eventually accomplish it. I’m working on telling as many people as possible, and I get more excited each time I talk about it.”