Students give back during Fall Break service learning trip

Shantel Pettway

While some WKU students spent their fall break visiting with family and friends, several students spent their time on a four-day service learning experience.

This year, the department of student activities and organizations led seven students on an alternative fall break to New Orleans in remembrance of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Coordinator for the department of student activities and organizations Josclynn Brandon is in charge of alternative breaks during the fall and spring semesters and tries to make every opportunity available to a diverse group of students.

“I was excited to present this opportunity because so many students were young when this tragedy hit,” Brandon said.

Louisville senior Damonte Lott appreciated this trip to New Orleans because he was in the city shortly after the hurricane hit. Lott visited Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School with his eighth grade class in 2007 to give out school supplies.

“I feel like it’s more beneficial to get a child and adult’s perspective of what impact Hurricane Katrina actually left behind,” Lott said.

Unlike Lott’s experience, this was Brandon’s first visit to New Orleans, and she was shocked at the disaster’s lingering impact more than a decade later.

“It’s crazy to see that it’s been 10 years, and some of the communities look like the disaster just hit,” Brandon said.

During the trip, the participants built homes in a community. Students were able to partner with the Youth Rebuilding New Orleans organization to construct houses that would be sold to teachers in the community.

Although four days were not enough time for the students to build an entire house, they were able to assist with preparing the floor work of the home.

“It felt great to be a part of the rebuilding process with these amazing people,” Lott said. “Their stories really spoke volumes. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes,” he said.

Another participant, Henderson freshman Jade Haywood, wishes she could have stayed longer in New Orleans.

“Everything is worth a shot in trying,” Haywood said. “Actually getting to go to New Orleans and learn more about the creole culture made me want to stay,” Haywood said.

The group also visited Whitney Plantation for the educational portion of the trip.

For Haywood, visiting the plantation was the most significant part of the trip. 

“I’ve always wanted to learn more about slavery and how it played a role in the Creole culture,” she said.