Editor’s note: A group of Upstate students spent spring break in New Orleans rebuilding a house damaged by Hurricane Katrina. This is the second year Upstate’s Center for Civic Engagement has sponsored a trip to hard-hit St. Bernard Parish, still rebuilding from Katrina almost eight years later. Some of the students’ reflections and photos will appear in With Distinction.
Sarah Kline, first-year medical student:
Our spring break service trip to New Orleans was a great opportunity to step out of the library and experience a different part of the country.
This was my first time to New Orleans and I could not believe how much devastation remained in the Ninth Ward from Hurricane Katrina almost 8 years ago. You would never know how much the locals suffered based on their warm and lively attitudes. Every person I encountered in New Orleans had a tragic story about their personal struggle, but such a resilient and optimistic outlook on life.
The entire experience was genuinely inspiring. It taught me a lot about my classmates and myself.
I learned that I have no future in construction and should avoid power tools as if my life depended on it; that it is impossible for 10 people to all be ready at the same time; that you can still hear a brass band concert perfectly through ear plugs; that GPS systems cannot distinguish Saint from Street, and that you should never get your hair cut at a bar.
But most importantly, I learned the value of home and importance of coming together as a community to help those who need it the most.
I came back to Syracuse with a new perspective and desire to embody the beautiful New Orleans mentality of overcoming any obstacles and always finding a reason to be happy and celebrate — whether it is through music, art, dancing, food or whatever else makes you smile.