The Student Life and Civic Engagement office will hold two unique volunteer opportunities for students during spring break. Students can travel with the SLCE office to either New Orleans to aid with continued disaster relief from Hurricane Katrina or Dallas to help at a camp for those with disabilities.
While this is the first time the SLCE office will take two spring break trips in one year, this is the eighth time they’ve traveled to New Orleans. Students will be working with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, a small non-profit organization that, according to Mariah Knowles, the student office manager and Sharks and Service site leader, “focuses on rebuilding homes in the New Orleans area that were blighted during Hurricane Katrina,” which are then sold to teachers and other service members.
“I know when I’ve been on that trip in the past we installed drywall, we used a jackhammer to dig up sidewalk, we did all kinds of things,” said Knowles, “but depending on what’s going on in the community, [Youth Rebuilding New Orleans] really just likes to help out in any way they can.”
This is SLCE’s first year taking students to Texas. Those attending will volunteer at Camp Summit, a camp for people ages 6-99 with disabilities, which promises a “barrier-free” experience.
“The goal is to create an environment where people can participate in activities that anyone else can participate in at camp, so they adjust them so whatever the disability is, they’re able to accommodate that they can still participate in the activity,” explained Knowles.
Andrea Dobo, graduate assistant in the SLCE office, said, “It allows them to enjoy pretty much any camp activity that you’d find at a summer camp, like archery, swimming, horseback riding, which they might not be able to do back home because of their situation.We will be working with anything from autism spectrum, to multiple sclerosis, to cerebral palsy, anything. Just letting them live a normal life.”
SLCE encourages any student who is interested in either of the trips to go.
“From experience, I can say students should go on trips because it’s one of the easiest ways to build relationships with other Sharks. There are lots of people I know solely because I’ve been on [Sharks and Service] trips with them,” said Knowles.
Dobo explained that these trips are designed for personal growth. Each night, students will engage in a reflection with site leaders in order for participants to foster personal connections with their experiences. Since it’s easy to feel disconnected to issues like the ones focused on during these trips, this experience gives students the opportunity to see firsthand how these things impact the lives of others.
“You develop leadership qualities, you learn a lot about yourself, a lot about the issue, it’s just a big area of growth,” she said.
It costs $300 to go to New Orleans and $350 for the Dallas trip, each of which you can sign up for through Orgsync. Both trips will take place during the week of spring break, from March 3 to the 10 and 11. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Andrea Dobo at email@example.com or at 954-262-7297.