Feb. 2, 2012
While most students were home during winter break, visiting family and friends, relaxing and gearing up for another semester at Shawnee State University, 15 students decided to take an alternative winter break.
Not to Panama City or Cozumel, but to disaster stricken Joplin, Mo., because of a tornado in mid-2011 and the recovering wards of New Orleans, La., which are still dealing with damage caused by Hurricane Katrina nearly seven years later.
A group of 15 Shawnee State University students as well as Community Service Coordinator Nikki Karabinis, set out for Joplin and New Orleans with one main goal in mind, to make a difference.
As one student put it, "Service is a big part of any community, big or small, you just have to be willing to stand up and say, 'I am going to do my part.'"
From painting walls, ripping up shingles, and tearing down a sun room, students with no real experience pitched in together and did their part in the rebuilding of these two cities.
Working with organizations like Relief Spark and Project 195 in Joplin, and Phoenix of New Orleans in Louisiana, students helped by removing debris and rebuilding houses in Joplin and putting the finishing touches on homes, specifically for teachers, in New Orleans.
The trips were made possible by grants from the SSU Development Foundation, Rotary of Portsmouth and SSU Rotaract.
"It was a life changing experience for everyone involved." Karabinis said as she discussed plans for future alternative breaks. "It really sheds light on the need for community service right here in Portsmouth."