Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset and Union students return from Katrina effort

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Jessica Bogart, of Asbury, Kelly Vliet, of Califon, Leah Walker, of Ewing, Michele Morris, of Millstone, and Genny Schwarzberg, of Springfield, shelled out some money this spring break for a flight to a warmer location, but their luggage contained more work clothes than swimsuits.

Jessica Bogart, of Asbury, Kelly Vliet, of Califon, Leah Walker, of Ewing, Michele Morris, of Millstone, and Genny Schwarzberg, of Springfield, shelled out some money this spring break for a flight to a warmer location, but their luggage contained more work clothes than swimsuits.

These students were part of a team from Rowan University that spent spring break helping rebuild residences in highly impacted regions of New Orleans.  Although this is the first or second time these students volunteered in New Orleans, Rowan has sent a team the past three years.

The students volunteered because they felt it was right to help people in need.  “I got involved in this project because it was something I could see immediate results in,” said Vliet.

Schwarzberg said, “It served as a wonderful opportunity to spend my spring break helping a community of people in dire need.”

“The trip definitely helped me understand the recovery process of the Gulf Coast region.  I began to understand how underdeveloped the area is 2 ½ years later.  Progress is being made, but not much considering the amount of time that has gone by,” Bogart said.

“The trip made me more aware of what that government is not doing and just how bad the conditions really are,” said Morris. “I never realized how much was actually effected.”

These students, accompanied by 28 of their fellow students and professors Dr. DeMond Miller (sociology), Dr. Jennifer Kadlowec (mechanical engineering) and Dr. Eric Constans (mechanical engineering) formed this year’s team. Professor Leigh Weiss (computer science) helped them prepare for the trip.

The group spent March 15 to 21, their spring break, on the effort. Financing a good portion of the trip themselves, they stayed with volunteers from University of Maryland Eastern Shore in a Xavier University dorm.

The Rowan group worked in the Seventh and Upper Ninth Wards.  Student projects included minor gutting in damaged houses, installing insulation and drywall, painting, and feeding the homeless.

The effort is nothing new at Rowan.  During spring break 2007, students and professors stayed at Xavier and volunteered for various projects. During spring break 2006, a team from across campus joined a few professors volunteering for Habitat for Humanity outside of New Orleans, living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency tent city—Camp Premier—in St. Bernard Parish and working on houses destroyed by Katrina.

Rowan’s support of the Gulf region started shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Engineering students volunteered in Picayune, Miss., throughout that fall semester to help rebuild school facilities in the town.

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