Sixteen Southern Miss students from the Hattiesburg campus traveled with three Gulf Park students to New Orleans on Thursday, Oct. 11, for the Alternative Service Break program.
The students teamed up with national disaster recovery organizations to repair houses that are still in a state of disrepair from Hurricane Katrina.
The problem of abandoned and broken-down houses has been persistent ever since the storm in 2005, and although many neighborhoods have recovered north of 90 percent of their houses, the Lower Ninth Ward had recovered only 37 percent as of 2015, according to an NPR article published in August 2015.
This issue was the result of many residents not being able to afford to rebuild. Many opted to turn their property over to the state, which has led to many of the houses and businesses remaining abandoned to this day. This is the problem that the ASB students planned to help alleviate.
Program manager for the Center of Community Engagement Nneka Ayozie said that the program is mostly organized by faculty at the moment, but the long-term goal is to get more students involved, so that it can be organized more by the students.
“It’s about creating culturally and globally aware student leaders,” Ayozie said.
This program is creating student leaders who are motivated to help others, like Andrea McDaniel, a senior business major who played a large role in organizing the New Orleans trip.
McDaniel describes the program in an Oct. 25, 2017 blog post on the ASB website as “one of the best experiences” she has had during her time at Southern Miss.
The trips provide community service opportunities for students as well as opportunities to explore the cultural aspects of certain areas.
“With the trip being so diverse with people and personalities, you are bound to know about them and their cultures all mixed with laughs,” McDaniel said.
Past trips have included students traveling to the Delta to visit the students of Shaw, Mississippi, during spring break 2017.
During this trip, ASB participants organized a mini library, facilitated self-esteem and team building activities, assisted with reading comprehension programming and discussed college life to high schoolers in the area. They also partnered with Delta Hands for Hope, a program that aims to empower youth through education and leadership training.
Southern Miss senior nursing major Tylicia Grove elaborated on this experience on another blog post found on the ASB website. She described the experience of visiting a local family medical clinic that was once segregated, but is now run by three African American women and is the only source for local healthcare in the area.
“This inspired me, and I ultimately hope to help close the gaps of disparities in rural areas of Mississippi just as these practitioners and great people like Lane Riley and Jason Coker are doing with Delta Hands for Hope,” Grove said.
“As I move forward in USM’s nursing program, I will carry this experience with me and this goal in mind.”
For more information about future trips in the ASB program, visit the Center for Community Engagement in The Hub room 104.