Original: April 26, 2011 Issue 15
By: Aline Barros
MC students volunteer to travel south to help with reconstruction projects during their spring vacation.
The devastation of Hurricane Katrina may have occurred over five years ago, but many families remain in need of help with a great many houses to be rebuilt. With the intention of getting work done, 15 Montgomery College students and three faculty and staff advisors volunteered for an Alternative Spring Break in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. March 13 to 19 was a week full of new experiences for students and advisors alike.
According to the Montgomery College website, with approximately 200 volunteers on the job, MC volunteers helped build one of five new homes. In addition to construction work, participants had the opportunity to interact with other college volunteers from across the United States, experience southern hospitality and learn about the local culture and economy.
The trip provided students with hands-on experience and education. “Knowing that I am helping building a house, it was a pretty good feeling,” said Julio Murillo, full-time MC student and participant. According to Murillo, students had the chance to talk to four future homeowners who put work into building their own house.
The Alternative Spring Break has been organized by the Office of Student Life for the past four years. Students from Takoma Park, Rockville and Germantown were all selected to participate in the trip. Debi Holmes, director of Student Life on MC’s Germantown Campus said, “I believe firmly in the educational opportunity of the Alternative Spring Break and the valuable growth experience it offers. Therefore, I pushed really hard to make it happen on the Germantown Campus.”
“We have been to the Gulf Coast three out of the four years and to Americus, Georgia in 2010,” added Holmes.
This volunteer opportunity is supported by The Montgomery College Foundation, with additional financial help from the students participating in the program. Philip McTighe, a full-time student at MC Germantown said “I did spend $250, which is incredible considering everything that we received. Plane tickets, housing [and] food for a week. It was a great deal, and again, it is because of MC.”
The students had the opportunity to learn many different things and enjoy their spring break.
Susan Wu, another participant, said,“I will remember the great people I met while we went to build the houses. I will remember the 14 other students I went with and our times in our rooms together. I will remember all of the good times.” All three students agreed they would do the program again, or “in a heartbeat,” as Wu said.
For the students, this experience served as an eye-opener to a situation that has not recently received a lot of coverage nationwide. “When you see tons of just house foundations and think that it wasn’t just a house, it was someone’s home, that was really moving,” added McTighe.