Created by: Katie Smith, 2012-2013 Career Advising Fellow
Like Mikki’s service trip to New Jersey, last week I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to advise an alternative spring break trip to New Orleans.
The alternative break trips are coordinated through Elon’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement and are planned, coordinated, and led by student leaders. Economics faculty member Greg Lily and I advised the trip, assisting our student leaders with logistics, handling money, and managing finances.
Greg and I, along with 12 students, drove 15 hours to New Orleans where we experienced a lively city full of life, culture, yet still rebuilding from the Katrina hurricane 8 years ago.
As a group we toured the French Quarter, enjoying pralines, beignets, gumbo, and po’boys. For the first two days, we walked the busy streets and watched artists and street performers, took a ferry, and visited the Presbytere Louisiana State Museum which featured artifacts, information, and a wide range of accounts regarding the controversial hurricane years ago.
For the final three days of the trip, we worked in collaboration with a nonprofit organization, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, to help rebuild a house that the organization will eventually sell at a low rate to a New Orleans teacher. Together we measured, cut, reinforced, painted, screened and installed permanent window screens for all house windows, a step necessary for the house’s inspection. We sanded and stained, built an outdoor hot water heater holder, and tore off a tin roof, added support beams, and put up new tin. Students (and Greg and I) measured, cut, sawed, hammered, painted and worked hard to help improve the house during our valuable time in New Orleans. We also went on a tour of the city and saw the 9th ward, spots where levees had breached, high-tech Brad Pitt houses, and visible remnants of the hurricane: empty lot and houses spray painted by police and FEMA.
The trip was an incredible opportunity for all of us to learn about and experience a city rebuilding itself. While conducting service, we reflected and bonded as a group, discussing factors that contributed to the disaster and how it has affected the city, our country, and our society. The trip was not only one of service, but one of knowledge and learning. In short, it was a wonderful way to spend a spring break.