Alternative fall break provides learning and service opportunities

WKU students Laura Coomer, left, and Megan Dunn pose for a picture under the St. Louis Arch during the 2014 Alternative Fall Break. Photo submitted by Megan Dunn

Sydney Rae Davis

Rather than spending their fall breaks visiting with family and friends, eight WKU students will be traveling to New Orleans to participate in a service trip.

Each year, WKU offers an alternative fall break for students interested in giving back to a community in need. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, the alternative fall break group will be aiding the New Orleans area where Hurricane Katrina devastated the community 10 years ago.

Josclynn Brandon, a coordinator of Leadership & Volunteerism for Diversity for the WKU Student Activities and Organizations, helped plan this year’s alternative fall break and will also be participating in the trip.

“I knew I wanted to do New Orleans with it being the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” Brandon said. “But I also [knew] that I couldn’t really provide the best educational component to this trip, so I partnered with African American Studies.”

The first day of the trip will be spent working with an organization called Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. Its volunteers help to rebuild homes that were devastated by or foreclosed because of Hurricane Katrina. The organization then sells the homes to teachers to encourage them to become homeowners in the city.

The second day will consist of an educational tour of the city hosted by Lynne Holland, director of the WKU Center for Career and Professional Development. Holland will teach the students about the history of New Orleans from the time Katrina struck until present-day. 

The eight students who will travel to New Orleans this fall break were chosen out of 33 applicants, which Brandon said is close to a record number. 

According to WKU’s Department of Student Activities’ website, students are selected for alternative breaks based on their prior community service work, as well as their level of involvement and commitment.

This trip will only costs students $100 which will cover their travel, lodging and one meal. WKU covers a majority of the cost in order to give the students the opportunity to participate.

Cave City senior Laura Coomer, who also went on last year’s alternative fall break trip to St. Louis and Kansas City, said she is excited to visit New Orleans on the 10 year anniversary of the natural disaster. 

“I am looking forward to visiting New Orleans again. It has been 10 years since I have been there,” Coomer said. “I was there five weeks before Katrina hit, and I have kept up with everything that has happened there and seen how they overcame such devastation. I want to see it and experience it in person.”

Coomer said she is also excited for the service projects they are going to do on the trip because she loves to give back.

Nashville senior Megan Dunn, who also went on the alternative fall break trip last year, said she initially applied because she loves traveling, but got a lot more out of the trip than just sightseeing. 

“I only wish I could have stayed longer to help more people,” Dunn explained. “I loved baking for the families and the kids at the Kansas City Ronald McDonald House and clearing the warehouse in St. Louis.”