Gators Helping Ladies
UHD Staffer Maria Estrada Shines a Light on a New Type of Poverty
By Ashley Kilday, Contributing Writer
Maria Estrada has been at UHD for more than 20 years. Her journey began as a student, earning a Psychology degree in 2005, and now as a staff member since 2010 for UHD Northwest.
Estrada, who serves as Assistant Director of Off Campus Operations, was interested in applying for a Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning (CCSL) Community Grant to shine a light on the campus. “Not many people are familiar with our satellite locations,” she said. “Our students primarily live in this area. I wanted to bring something to our campus so they would have the opportunity to volunteer.”
She became aware of a community-facing issue when she donated formal wear to The Giving Gown Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting confidence and self-esteem to female high schoolers while helping them attend their formal events in style, regardless of financial circumstances. It was here that Estrada learned about the organization’s Period Poverty Project.
“In the Period Poverty Project, the Giving Gown collects feminine hygiene products they can give to middle- and high-school students who aren’t able to afford them. It’s not something that’s really discussed, but it’s serious,” Estrada emphasized. “One in four female students misses school because she is embarrassed to ask for these products or ask for help. I didn’t know period inequity was an issue, but after researching it, I want to draw awareness to it. UHD students may be facing something similar, and we might not even know it.”
Estrada was awarded a $700 Community Grant that enabled her team of volunteers to make 200 reusable donation bags, filled with feminine hygiene products. Estrada based her purchase decisions on the Giving Gown’s Amazon wish list. CCESL purchased the supplies and had them delivered to UHD Northwest so the project could be carried out.
“I hope we are able to do these types of projects every semester,” she continued. “I want to give opportunities to the Northwest campus students that are similar to what they might receive on the Downtown campus. It’s also great that we can help the community."
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.