Story first published by the University of Maryland Alumni Association on their blog. Read the blog here.
Written by Allison Eatough ‘97
Audrey Awasom ’18 grew up in Montgomery County, Md., one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. The Robert H. Smith School of Business graduate said she never saw homeless people in the county, sleeping on sidewalks or standing on street corners asking for money.
But that doesn’t mean they weren’t there.
In 2015, while a student at Montgomery College, Awasom realized there were hundreds of county residents who lacked a roof over their heads and support to find a secure job.
“It was jarring to see that this was occurring in a county that is so affluent,” she said. “My mother, who is a nurse practitioner, raised my siblings and I with the mentality to be generous to those who often don’t have enough.”
Drawing upon this sentiment, Awasom and two fellow Montgomery College students launched the One Heart Project, an initiative to teach job readiness skills like time management and interview preparation to women experiencing homelessness at the Montgomery Avenue Women's Center.
The project, which received funds and support from Walmart and Athleta, was an immediate success. Yet after speaking with women in the shelter, Awasom said she knew she wanted to do more.
When she transferred to UMD in 2016, she began laying the foundation for Noble Uprising, her nonprofit dedicated to empowering women experiencing homelessness. One of the first steps: to move job readiness training out of the shelter and into a professional, office-like space.
“We wanted to create a space that reflected an office setting to help our women become more comfortable in a professional setting” she said.
As CEO, Awasom added Microsoft Office into the training and provided participants with laptop computers and a stipend for transportation to and from the space. And to round out the job preparation experience, Noble Uprising provided a shopping spree for the inaugural group of participants.
The organization also partnered with fellow nonprofit Katie Kares in 2020 to provide coats, food and more than 100 care packages filled with shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and socks to people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore. In the past, Noble Uprising has partnered with organizations like The Dwelling Place, Interfaith Works and the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program to provide over 1,000 care packages to those in need.
This year, Awasom and her team of five will continue building relationships with area social service organizations to extend their outreach, continue efforts to combat food and housing insecurity and expand the training program beyond entry-level jobs to careers in fields like information technology and healthcare.
“Our interest is to help our women build careers, and starting from an entry-level position will not provide enough financial stability for the families of our women, especially living in Montgomery County given how expensive everything is,” she said.
“We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the care and love of the individuals that we have encountered over the years at the Smith School and the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship,” she said. “From the amazing directors and the teachers there to the partnership and relationship that we have with the Do Good Institute. Having a group of individuals who want you to succeed, and who will not only say it but back it with resources, has been a very helpful and touching experience for me.”