NUOP Students Lend Helping Hands to Habitat for Humanity

April 11, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

  • NUOP Volunteers

    Student volunteers on March 22 included, clockwise from top-left, Matthew Caraballo, Zach Partner, Asia Rosado, JaRon Williams, Steele Burgeson, Caton Charleston and Mayra Urrutia. Not pictured: Dema Isa.

  • NUOP Volunteers

    Student volunteers on March 29 were, from left, Nakya Brewer, Sommerly Gasca, Rachel Weber, JaRon Williams, Dema Isa and Mayra Urrutia.

Niagara University students, including several members of the Niagara University Opportunity Program, gave up a pair of March Saturdays to volunteer their services with Habitat for Humanity in Niagara Falls.

The service project was organized by Sharon Green, coordinator of instructional services in NU’s Office of Academic Support. Green previously received a Diversity Grant from the university to fund the initiative.

According to Green, the students were compelled to support a local reconstruction project after reading Zeitoun by Dave Eggers during a summer NUOP course she teaches. The book is based on a true story that chronicles the discrimination in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Afterward, Green’s students watched Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, which depicts the devastation of houses and displacement of residents, many of them New Orleans’ poorest.

Green said that her students were very moved by what they read and saw, especially after hearing that that housing reconstruction in New Orleans is still ongoing, nearly nine years after the hurricane struck.

Green and her students supported Habitat for Humanity by working on a house at 54 A Street, part of the Echota neighborhood in Niagara Falls. They sanded drywall, painted walls, doors and molding, and helped with cleaning.  The students, some of whom come from low-income backgrounds, learned a great deal about home construction, priming and painting, and buying and maintaining a home.

Since Habitat for Humanity requires that beneficiaries devote at least 250 hours toward rebuilding their future home, the students had an opportunity to work alongside the soon-to-be homeowner and her mother.

And thanks to Habitat’s building site manager Claudia Folsom, students also learned about the history of the historic neighborhood.

Funds from Niagara University’s Diversity Grant covered lunch and transportation costs as well as a post-service reflection. The remaining money will be donated to the homeowner so that she can personalize her new house.

To learn more about the Niagara University Opportunity Program, please visit

More on Habitat for Humanity can be found at