By Mashia Kellum
Over the spring break week in March, seven students from Lawrence Technological University participated in the Alternative Spring Break program and went to New Orleans to volunteer at several organizations serving the community.
Alternative Spring Break is a student-run organization that engages students and raises awareness about the issues our communities face across the United States. It is also a student organization that is dedicated to breaking people out of their shells and developing leadership skills.
The students were Elton Tate, Jordan Dedene, Asia Dobbins, Jiali Xu, Leslie Wang, Cheng Zhang, and myself, the president of the LTU student chapter.
We all came together for one purpose, and that was to serve the community. Our motivation stemmed from the knowledge of the struggle here in Michigan and a desire to not only improve Michigan, but the world. When we went to New Orleans we got a chance to help organizations that truly needed the help.
For our first day we volunteered at Arc of Greater New Orleans (arcgno.org), which is committed to securing for people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop, function, and live to their fullest potential.” We got a chance to interact with one of the individuals and he helped us with separating the beads that are part of the Mardi Gras celebration every year. They separate the beads to recycle them so that the Mardi Gras krewes do not have to make so much and add waste to the world. This gives the individuals there something to do and it gives their life purpose. By our interaction we could tell that they were passionate.
At Kipp, the New Orleans Leadership Primary School, we helped pick up the slack on office work. The kinds of things we did included putting together books, laminating papers, and helping them refill the classrooms with necessary supplies. These tasks were things that would have taken one person days to do but only took us a few hours.
We went to a community center where individuals ages 10-25 go for comfort. They told us their stories and we got a chance to interact with them and see what the director does firsthand. She really is the guiding hand for a lot of the young boys in the neighborhood – when they are doing something wrong in the community, she is the one that handles it. She’s a big part of the village that grows young boys into men.
We also worked at Rescue Ranch, which is a place that recues, rehabilitates, retrains and relocates at-risk horses. While we were there we helped clean out the barn – scoop poop, lay down hay, refill water. We also got a chance to create a ditch so that when it rains water does not go into the barn. The interesting part about this place was that it was right in front of a levee. We got a chance to climb to the top and see the water.
The place where we lived for the week was Camp Restore. Our tasks as a group at Camp was to help serve breakfast Monday and help clean up after dinner Thursday night.