June 20, 2014

Young Alumni Travel to New Orleans for Third Service Trip

During the week of May 24th, 11 alumni from the classes of 2004-2014 traveled to New Orleans, La., for Emmanuel’s third annual Young Alumni Service Trip, an effort that was established by the College’s Center for Mission Engagement in 2012 after graduates expressed interest in staying connected with Emmanuel through service opportunities.

Mark Harrington ’08, the Center’s associate director, was happy to continue the College’s partnership with the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization established in 2006 to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The previous alumni service trips, along with Emmanuel’s annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB), have supported the organization.

“It was gratifying to be serving in the Lower Ninth Ward on this particular trip,” Harrington said of the neighborhood that came to national attention after it was devastated by the 2005 storm. The group worked on the home of John Taylor, a lifetime resident of the area, who worked as a trapper in the wetlands of Louisiana before they began to recede. With the recent establishment of the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED), an organization dedicated to restoring the state’s coastal and swamp regions, Taylor was tapped as an invaluable resource and now works as the CSED’s bayou specialist.

Including Harrington, this year's participants were Marybeth Oskowski ’04, Mimi Kelly ’06, Shannon McGilvreay ’08, Liz Humphries ’10, Samantha Sokolowski ’10, Jaime De Pena ’13, Imani Green ’13, Katie Singer ’13, Jenny Konecnik ’14 and Michael Morris ’14. More than half of the group have participated in the alumni trip in previous years, or had worked with the St. Bernard Project as undergraduates through ASB.

Mimi Kelly has carried on Emmanuel’s commitment to service in both her personal and professional life since graduation. “I worked in the city for a few years, but the core commitment of peace, justice and the community that I learned at Emmanuel never left my mind, and I listened to that little voice in the back of my head telling me I was called to do more,” Kelly said. “I applied to nursing school, and happily just graduated with a BSN this past May.”

Kelly, who participated in last year’s trip, fell in love with the city in 2013 and jumped at the chance to return, both to meet new alumni and reconnect with old friends.

“There was a great blend of older and younger alumni, all who came together with a combined desire to give of themselves to the city and help each other. We laughed a lot, and were moved by the generosity and gratitude of the residents of New Orleans, especially the other volunteers working with us and the owner of the house we were working on.”

“Emmanuel's commitment to service was contagious, I discovered shortly after arriving on campus,” said Jaime De Pena, who participated in his first alumni trip. “The selfless attitude that some came in with, many left with by the end of their four years at Emmanuel. I was one of them. I think it's important to remember that we’re the lucky ones and no effort goes unnoticed.”

The alums were hosted at the Duchesne Volunteer House, a Society of the Sacred Heart-sponsored project that offers a cultural immersion and reflection program for volunteers who travel to the area for service in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In addition to their days serving with the St. Bernard Project, the group also had the chance to take in New Orleans culture, including a tour of St. Louis Cathedral, a visit to The Presbytère (Louisiana's state museum), a wetlands talk by Joann Burke, the education director for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center, and a visit with David Montana, the chief of one of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes.

Check out photos from the trip on the Center for Mission Engagement’s Facebook page.