UMBC Mic'd Up

Strengthening Community Connections

August 25, 2023 UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise Season 3
Strengthening Community Connections
UMBC Mic'd Up
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UMBC Mic'd Up
Strengthening Community Connections
Aug 25, 2023 Season 3
UMBC Mic'd Up with Dennise

Welcome to another episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast! In this episode, Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs at UMBC sits down with Rebeccah Henry, a recent graduate of the Community Leadership graduate program. Rebeccah shares her transformative journey and how the program prepared her for her current role as a volunteer engagement specialist at Baltimore City Public Schools.

Rebeccah's passion for lifelong learning and community empowerment shines through as she discusses her experiences and the valuable connections she made during her time at UMBC. Join us for an insightful conversation about the power of relationships, the importance of racial equity, and the impact of community engagement.

For more information about UMBC's Community Leadership graduate program, visit

Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to another episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast! In this episode, Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs at UMBC sits down with Rebeccah Henry, a recent graduate of the Community Leadership graduate program. Rebeccah shares her transformative journey and how the program prepared her for her current role as a volunteer engagement specialist at Baltimore City Public Schools.

Rebeccah's passion for lifelong learning and community empowerment shines through as she discusses her experiences and the valuable connections she made during her time at UMBC. Join us for an insightful conversation about the power of relationships, the importance of racial equity, and the impact of community engagement.

For more information about UMBC's Community Leadership graduate program, visit

Dennise Cardona  0:00  
Welcome to this episode of UMBC's Mic'd Up podcast. My name is Dennise Cardona from the Office of Professional Programs at UMBC. Today, we are joined by Rebeccah Henry. She's a recent graduate of our community leadership graduate program. I hope that you enjoy this episode. It's so nice to have you here, Rebeccah on the UMBC Mic'd Up podcast. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Rebeccah Henry  0:24  
Thanks for having me.

Dennise Cardona  0:25  
It's wonderful. So you just graduated from Community Leadership? Is that correct? That is Yeah. What brought you to study community leadership at UMBC?

Rebeccah Henry  0:35  
Yeah, sure. So I actually am a former UMBC employee. So I learned through the program, because I'm out, I was out of the Shriver Center. And so some of my colleagues were actually professors for the program. So they were promoting it, and I was seeing it. And I thought that it just really aligned with my like, professional and personal career goals and life goals. As well as, I'm like a lifetime learner, like a forever student, I can't stay out of school. So it was a program that I could collect under my belt that would just help me further in my career in life.

Dennise Cardona  1:09  
Yeah, I understand the whole lifelong learner thing I've been, I have constantly just taken workshops, conferences, online classes, I've gone to seminars, there's something about lifelong learning, right? It makes you feel like you are just part of this dynamic nature of living life and learning and absorbing things. 

Rebeccah Henry  1:28  
Yes, no, I totally agree. 

Dennise Cardona  1:29  
What is it that you love most about learning? What is it that makes you a lifelong learner?

Rebeccah Henry  1:35  
I think I just I like keeping my mind busy. I'm like, incorporating like the world is forever changing, and like growing, and there's new information that comes out. And it's, I just want to be abreast of that. And a lot of it is truly a lot of the learning that I do. I try to do it so it can better serve the community that I support. So it's really to make me a better advocate and support for the community. 

Dennise Cardona  1:57  
Yeah, absolutely. So what are you doing now? Are you still at UMBC as an employee, or have you moved on? And what are you doing?

Rebeccah Henry  2:04  
Yeah, so actually, after 10 years, I left in August of last year after being with the Choice Program for 10 years. And I am now with Baltimore City Public Schools as a volunteer engagement specialist. And so that has been a different experience transferring from like, the nonprofit world to city schools, but it's still great because I'm still working with kids and still involved in the community and service. So it's still right aligned with where I'm heading. 

Dennise Cardona  2:29  
Yeah. What do you love most about what you're doing now?

Rebeccah Henry  2:32  
I think I really love like getting to, like, still impact the community and schools. And while it might not be through direct service, it's through putting folks and connecting folks in positions and opportunities to have that impact on students and students success.

Dennise Cardona  2:47  
Yeah, that's really pivotal, powerful, when you can do that when you can connect those factors together and really improve lives for people out there in the community. Sounds like that's exactly what you're doing.

Rebeccah Henry  2:58  
Yeah, that's definitely my passion.

Dennise Cardona  3:01  
Fantastic. So was that what motivated you to apply to the community leadership graduate program? Did you know going into the program that I do want to do something different with my path, but I'm not sure what or maybe you knew that this is what you wanted to do? What was that journey like?

Rebeccah Henry  3:17  
Yeah, I think for me, I wanted to gain like I said, more skills to support me in whichever direction I was going to take. I knew I was getting ready to spread my wings and fly away from UMBC after being there for so long. And I wanted some good tools in my toolkit that would further me in supporting the communities and doing community work. And I really wanted to continue to build a network of folks that were doing similar work or similar passions of uplifting the community. And so I thought that this program would be a good fit to leave me with folks in the same direction. Yeah, absolutely.

Dennise Cardona  3:51  
Yeah, absolutely. So how did you want to be CS Community Leadership graduate program prepare you for the role that you're in right now?

Rebeccah Henry  3:58  
The Community Leadership graduate program at UMBC prepared me for the role that I'm in right now because it really allowed me to get deeper into service and uplifting the community. And so my role is a volunteer engagement specialist. I'm really connecting folks with service opportunities. And so it really helped me get in tune with the community's needs, but then also begin to build a network of folks that are interested in service, and really connecting those folks into the work.

Dennise Cardona  4:23  
Yeah, that's fantastic. And did you have when you were in the program, did you have a favorite course that you took? And if so, what was it and why?

Rebeccah Henry  4:32  
Yeah, so I actually had to and for similar reasons. So the community leadership one on one course, as well as the capstone course. And that was truly because the two professors Joby and Sally, they were amazing and they took the class out of the classroom, and that was powerful. They we got in the community, we got to speak with community leaders, we got to walk around the community and learn the history. And I think that was just so exciting and enriching for me because, I like to learn by doing as well, and so getting out and not just reading a book or watching a presentation was really empowering. And being in the presence of folks doing such powerful work was really inspiring.

Dennise Cardona  5:11  
Yeah. And it seems like that's the strength of this program at UMBC is the fact that it's very hands on. And it's very tuned in to the communities surrounding the UMBC campus. So Baltimore, specifically Baltimore, I've seen photos of the classrooms that you've had out there, outside, and it just looks like so, fun, everybody is just, they all get along, you're all walking with big smiles on your faces, walking through neighborhoods, and having class right there in, it looked like a park, maybe.

Rebeccah Henry  5:42  
It was great. We got to see so many different spots in Baltimore and learn about like I said, the history but then also connect with various folks, whether it be like nonprofit folks, or people in the business world or like working for institutions that are just doing like community work. And it was just so powerful to hear their impact, but then also see it when you're in the community and feel it. There's something about like that feeling that you get being in those places.

Dennise Cardona  6:10  
Did you participate in a partnership type, of course, or a program project when you're in the program?

Rebeccah Henry  6:18  
Yes. So for actually, both of those courses we worked with, we got to pick a nonprofit to work with, and support in some sort of like capacity building or whatever kind of they had a need for. And I was fortunate enough to work with the same nonprofit for both courses to deepen my connection with them. So I worked with Cherry Hill strong, which is a organization out of the Cherry Hill community, they're like a quarterback organization. So they're really working to bring in resources, and really equip the community with what they need to be a thriving community. And so whether that's bringing in things like grocery stores, or other businesses, or land ownership for folks that are from the community, they're just doing really great work and really uplifting the voice of the community. And so it felt like a really good connection for that. So I was able to do a lot of cool projects with them. One was like an Easter giveaway. And so we like bagged up a bunch of Easter baskets and gave them out to the youth in the community, which was a lot of fun.

Dennise Cardona  7:16  
That sounds like really fun, just spirited, fun. And speaking of spirited, what was it like working with your fellow peer students, everybody comes from a different background, different experiences, and different desires of things that they want to do out there in the community? What was your favorite part of interacting with students and with your fellow students? What did that teach you? What did you take away from that experience?

Rebeccah Henry  7:42  
Yeah, that was actually another part of the program that I really appreciated, because there were so many people that had the same passion of like community development, like community leadership, community support, uplifting the voice of the community, but they all did it in a different way. So some people were really into the housing or some people were really into different focus groups, whether it be like previously incarcerated folks or different populations. But it was beautiful to see how we all came together around this common mission and common goal, but all had different touches in different areas. And so I was able to learn a lot about how their experiences went and how they interact with the community and take away a lot of knowledge and tools that I can use in my interactions and moving forward with community work. And so it was really powerful to have that learning community from one another when we all had a common goal, but came from different places. 

Dennise Cardona  8:33  
Yeah, you learn a lot that way. I feel like it's any team. Everybody can't have the same strengths and all the weaknesses, because then it would just be this very static environment. What makes it a dynamic environment is having people with different skill strengths and some weaknesses so that you can all come together and build each other up. It sounds like that is the experience that you had with the program. 

Rebeccah Henry  8:57  
Yeah, absolutely. There was a lot of rich conversation amongst the students during class, which was nice.

Dennise Cardona  9:03  
Awesome. Now, my question, I love asking this next question, because I feel like it really hones in on the strength of the programs that you study here at UMBC that students study. What was your greatest takeaway from studying in the UMBC? Is Community Leadership graduate program?

Rebeccah Henry  9:24  
I think my biggest takeaway from the community leadership graduate program at UMBC was the networks and connections I made with folks. I'm still in contact with people from my class and my courses and still finding ways to work with them. And they're just popping up in organic ways also in work that I'm doing and showing up and just already having those relationships allows just for the work to go deeper and happen like more quickly and stuff because there's already that established baseline. And so it's really been neat to see how those relationships that were established in the program. I'm have grown and expanded out into my professional life outside of UMBC even.

Dennise Cardona  10:06  
Yeah. From your experience working out there in the community leadership field, what do you think the biggest challenges that we're facing as a community as a society? What would you say is the biggest challenge that we all need to be aware of at this point?

Rebeccah Henry  10:24  
That's a big question. So I think for me, the thing on my heart mostly is like racial equity, and social justice when it comes to racial equity. And just being aware of how we're showing up every day on what we're doing every day, I'm making sure that we are not perpetuating, but instead dismantling, and being an advocate and those things, and I think that leads a lot of my work. And I think like in that to making connections with folks and not being siloed, because I think there is a lot that the city has to offer in the community and everything. But it's like getting those connections, people don't know what other people are doing. And so really forging those networks and those partnerships and getting in collaboration, because I think we could be more powerful in numbers for sure.

Dennise Cardona  11:12  
So well stated. Wow. Yes, absolutely. I agree. 100%, with everything you just said, Is there anything, Rebecca that we haven't talked about that you think would lend value to the, to this conversation before we end this podcast episode?

Rebeccah Henry  11:28  
Like, I think I've already said how great the program is, but I can't stress it enough. I think it was really, like it's transformative for me, in a sense, because I was able to get a deeper understanding of Baltimore, I'm not from Baltimore. But the program does a good job of laying that foundation of getting a deeper understanding. And though I had been working in these communities for years, some of the things I wasn't aware of, and I didn't know, and I think that enlightenment has just really opened up so many like doors in my mind. And I think it's so powerful. And so I would just encourage folks to try it out. And so even if you don't want to go the full Masters, where you could always do the certificate program, and just try it out. So it was great. Yeah,

Dennise Cardona  12:08  
that's so true. You can test out just test the water, take one class and see how it goes. For me. That was my, that's what I wanted to do. That was my intention. I said it was during COVID. We were on lockdown. And like, I had to do something here because I'm gonna go crazy, just being still with myself too much. And I said, Okay, I'm going to challenge myself, I'm going to take one class, and I decided to take a class and something that was interesting to me, which is how to do course development. And I took that one course. And of course, I ended up enrolling in the entire master's program, plus a few of the certificate programs. And here I am three years later. Just yeah, lifelong learner, like we said before. So what I love to do with each podcast episode is I love to ask some professional development questions, because this podcast really does cater to those people who were looking to develop themselves professionally and personally. So what would you say was the greatest life lesson that you have learned in your life so far?

Rebeccah Henry  13:12  
Yeah, I think this is gonna sound a little cliche. But again, it's kind of talked to I think it's been a theme through what we've been talking about, but it's not what you know, it's who you know, really. And I think relationships are so powerful. And we really underestimate them sometimes, especially when we're doing community work. Sometimes we don't think of the community as as a resource, or the people in the community of being experts of their own lives, but really building those relationships. And hearing what people have to say, and what they have to offer, I think really is it's really about who you know, and not necessarily what you know, and that will really get you far too, I think.

Dennise Cardona  13:49  
Yeah, it's the relationships that we build. The whole premise of life is building those beautiful connections. That's what has kept us thriving and surviving throughout history. So yes, it's really important to build those connections and those, nurture those relationships. I completely agree. My last question is, do you have a favorite quote, or a favorite book that you'd like to share with us?

Rebeccah Henry  14:11  
Yeah, I would say my favorite quote in the spirit of service is from Muhammad Ali. And that is service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.

Dennise Cardona  14:20  
I got chills. I love that. Yes, thank you so much for sharing that. And thanks for sharing your insights and your experience that you had here at UMBC. With us all, it's always wonderful to hear stories of how UMBC has impacted the lives of our students, our graduates and the surrounding community as a result. So thank you so much for being with us.

Rebeccah Henry  14:43  
Yeah, thank you for having me.

Dennise Cardona  14:44  
Thank you for tuning into this episode. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you'd like to learn more about our offerings, please do a search for UMBC community leadership graduate program, or click the link in the description below.

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