Universities lend a helping hand to USM
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 23:02
When an EF-4 tornado swept across Forrest and Lamar counties Sunday night, University of Southern Mississippi students were not the only ones gearing up to start relief efforts around Hattiesburg.
“Southern Miss To the Top, we’re here at your disposal,” said Jackson State University’s Student Government President Brian Wilks. “‘For the people’ was my campaign slogan, which means being there for students and community. That goes beyond JSU and Hinds County.”
Wilks said his student body is collecting such items as toiletries and bottled water to bring to Hattiesburg Friday, though they are not the only university stepping up to help.
A group of 13 people from Mississippi State University came to Hattiesburg Monday bearing chainsaws and generators to help with the Hattiesburg relief efforts.
“It’s important to support each other’s schools and communities, especially after a catastrophe,” said MSU sophomore Allison Dueitt, who added that the project is not over just yet. “Mississippi is a family, and our unity is required in order to recover fully from devastation.”
Dueitt said students at Mississippi State are planning to keep donating supplies and spreading the word about fundraising for as long as necessary.
“It’s important that USM knows we have their back and we are willing to help in any way,” Dueitt said.
The University of Mississippi has also begun planning to be part of the relief efforts in Hattiesburg, according to Ole Miss senior and Big Event co-director Doug Odom.
“The response up here has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re ready to help out however we can,” Odom said. “So many people are looking to help out.”
Odom added that plans are being made to coordinate a trip to Hattiesburg for clean up, and canned good and hygiene product drives are already underway.
Across state lines, students at the University of South Alabama created an event called “Paws Out for the Eagles.”
“We’re definitely going to get involved,” said Cassie Fambro, executive editor of the university’s school newspaper. “With the tornado that affected us on Christmas Day and the tornados that hurt our neighbors in Tuscaloosa prior, we want to do anything we can.”
Fambro said a meeting is scheduled for today, but students have already started planning a fundraiser and a blanket drive.
“Many students at USA have friends at USM and we view it as an extension of our college family as well as our civic duty to do what we can,” Fambro said. “We want to pay it forward and support our colleagues at USM.”
In April 2011 when an EF-4 tornado struck the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., college students across the country mobilized to help out, and hours after the storm hit Hattiesburg, Alabama students got started planning to return the favor through a gift card drive.
“When I saw the front of our student newspaper discussing ways that we, as a university, are giving back to the university that once helped us in our time of need, my heart was touched,” said 20-year-old junior Kayla Foto. “It’s so awesome being a member of two communities willing to do so much for one another.”
Several other schools across the southeast have stepped up to help, including Alcorn State University and William Carey University.
“We’re thinking big,” Wilks said. “We really want to show that there’s unity between our schools.”