SILVER SPRING – Maria Bushby, a Colonel Zadok Magruder High School graduate, was named a 2019 Newman Civic Fellow for her efforts to help the homeless.
She is one of 262 college students across the country chosen by Campus Compact, a national organization committed to advancing community service in higher education.
“I would say that I am deeply involved because I think everyone deserves a home,” said the senior at Ithaca College in New York.
“It’s not necessarily right that society pushes some people out and others in,” she said.
Bushby traced her empathy to her upbringing by her parents and the work she completed with her church, Mill Creek Parish Methodist Church in Derwood.
Along with other church members, Bushby spent several summers participating with Appalachia Service Projects, which repairs homes for low-income families in rural Central Appalachia. Participants work on providing houses for all that are “warmer, safer and drier,” she said.
It was through her service project that Bushby realized that some people might work hard and still not be able to have a place of their own to live, she said.
The United States has “a system that has turned a lot of people away,” but Bushby said she learned to “take people where they are and as they are,” she said.
Her volunteerism grew to include work with Ithaca College’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, where she helped build homes and also learned about advocacy.
She also participates in Second Wind Cottages and Ithaca Rescue Mission. Through the cottages program, Bushby helped build small homes for “people who deserve a second chance” so they can “try to get back on their feet,” she explained.
Ithaca College called Bushby a “student leader” due to her efforts with homelessness in Tompkins County, New York. The attention she received caused for school President Shirley M. Collado to nominate Bushby for the fellowship.
“Through her involvement with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations actively combating homelessness in our region, Maria is making a difference in the lives of local residents and their families,” Collado wrote in her nominating letter. “While Maria’s efforts and accomplishments to date have been outstanding, I am excited to see what she will do in the future.”
Bushby, who played softball, was on the swimming and diving team, played percussion in the marching band and participated in drama productions while at Magruder, is majoring in sociology at the college.
While she is unsure what her future holds, Bushby wants to stay involved in something dealing with affordable housing, homelessness or the environment.
“I am so thankful for the opportunity to become a fellow for the Compact and to have the chance to work with people on the grassroots level to make positive change surrounding homelessness and affordable housing,” Bushby said.
Affordable and safe housing are “really, really important things,” she said.
“I think honestly anybody could, at the end of the day” become homeless, she said.
“Life happens, and systemic changes could go against you. I mean, it could happen to anyone. It could happen to me. It could happen to you.”
For homelessness to end, change must occur both from the bottom up and the top-down, Bushby said. As more people involved themselves in the grassroots level,“those in higher places need to stop and listen and have a heart,” she said.
This is the eighth straight year that an Ithaca College student became a Newman Civic Fellow. As a fellow, Bushby will receive learning and networking opportunities from Campus Compact. She will attend a national conference with other fellows in partnership with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.
Once she completes college, Bushby will be eligible for scholarships and post-college graduate opportunities.
Campus Compact is a nonprofit national coalition of colleges and universities and is supported by KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.