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SU students spend winter vacation continuing Katrina cleanup
SU students spend winter vacation continuing Katrina cleanupJanuary 03, 2007Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
With Hurricane Katrina’s devastation nearly a year and a half behind them–and much of the nation’s attention now focused elsewhere–the residents of New Orleans and many other Gulf Coast communities are still facing colossal challenges in cleaning up and rebuilding their neighborhoods. To help residents continue to overcome these challenges, a group of Syracuse University students have chosen to devote their winter vacation to volunteering for the ongoing reconstruction effort.
The trip, coordinated by SU’s Protestant Campus Ministries and co-sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, is a continuation of SU’s support for Katrina-affected students, faculty and staff. SU was one of many educational institutions to host displaced students and faculty; the University and its students established or raised money for a variety of Katrina relief funds; and several student trips have helped SU students learn and reflect on the social issues highlighted by the disaster, while aiding the cleanup effort. On this trip, a group of 10 SU students, a Smith College student, a member of the Central New York community and the Rev. Kelly Sprinkle, chaplain of Hendricks Chapel’s Protestant Campus Ministries, will work closely with New Orleans residents on gutting and tearing down destroyed homes, and cleaning, building and rehabilitating damaged ones.
“This trip is about making connections and serving alongside those who have been devastated by a natural and human disaster,” says Sprinkle. “Students go on the trip to make a difference. Ultimately the students realize that they are different when they return home. They see their own communities differently and realize that engagement is not always about going to some distant city, because the need is also great right where they live and study.”
This is the second year that Sprinkle has coordinated the Protestant Campus Ministries trip for SU, and four of this year’s student participants are veterans of the January 2006 trip. “For young people to take their semester break — to come into a city with death, destruction and disaster all around, to help people that they don’t even know, says quite a lot about your character, moral fiber and personality,” writes one New Orleans resident, in her account of being helped last year by the SU group. “All of their parents ought to be truly proud to have raised concerned, considerate, compassionate, caring individuals as these.”
This year’s participants are Sprinkle; Hendricks Chapel congregant and community member David Murray; Smith College student Molly Morris; SU graduate students Carolyn Danckaert, Alejandro Amezcua and Jonathan Preston; and SU undergraduate students Kate Vanderpool, Robert Coulter, Maisha Baddoo, Mark Medina, Leigh Ann Tipton, Will Murtaugh and David Poliner.
“This type of trip challenges students to ask the important question, ‘What is my role in the world?'” says Sprinkle. “By listening and living with the question, students are enabled to make of their education not only the acquisition of knowledge, but also an opportunity to apply human experiences in order to become better citizens.”