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.
Alisa Anderson, first-year medical student:
I really can’t imagine a better way to spend my spring break than our trip to New Orleans.
I learned so much in such a short amount of time, especially about the devastation that Hurricane Katrina had left on the city and how truly evil things like contractor fraud had affected so many that are still displaced eight years later.
Even though much of the country has moved on, hundreds of families are still without a proper place they can call home. Our exploration and work in the Ninth Ward was the most inspiring; every place we went and every person we saw had a chilling story to tell, but the spirit and liveliness of none were dampened.
I also learned a lot about myself and those around me. Our little group grew into a fully functioning unit that helped to drywall an entire house!
I learned that Siobhan is a fearless leader; Tommy is great with a rotozip saw and should probably become a surgeon; Susie can play a mean washboard and spoon; Jordan has the ability to keep a calm and level head even with a 12-passenger van sunk in a sandlot; Caleb can make friends with literally anyone and is a trendsetter with dance moves; Dave has a knack for finding the greatest little spots around the city; Josh is incredible at spot-on impressions, and Sarah has the best drywall sense of humor that I’ve ever heard.
It was a completely refreshing trip and humbling experience, and I hope to return to New Orleans to continue to volunteer and enjoy the unique atmosphere that embodies the city and those who live there.