July 22, 2013
Recently, women's soccer alums Tishia Jewell and Kristen Poulton spent a week in New Orleans with the non-profit group Student Athletes Leading Social Change (SALSC).
During their time, they helped the youth of the community by refurbishing playgrounds and sports fields, painting a school and conducting a leadership workshop for disadvantaged kids.
Below is a journal written by Poulton on her experience with the service group.
Monday, July 8th:
Tishia and I arrived in New Orleans around 3 p.m., where we were greeted by the other student-athletes at the bunkhouse where we were staying. Other schools included Illinois, University of North Carolina, Sacramento State, University of Michigan, Lehigh University, University of New England and others. We began by meeting our Hands On New Orleans supervisor, and the leader of the SALSC organization, Jeff Janssen. We got a presentation and a breakdown of our duties for the week, and a little more history about what really happened during hurricane Katrina. After the meeting, we went on a tour by car to see which parts were most devastated by the storm, and what it looks like today. At some areas, you can still see the houses that have just been abandoned. It was unbelievable to comprehend the fact that the city was under, on average, 8 inches of water for about a month, give or take. We also saw the areas where the levees broke, which contributed a great amount to the flooding the city had to undertake. After our tour, our group of 22 went into the city for dinner.
Tuesday, July 9th:
This was our first day of work and we were really excited to get started on our projects. We worked from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and went to Slyvanie Williams College Prep Elementary School to work on creating a better environment for the children to work in. We split into two groups to begin working. Tish's and my group began painting. We prepped and painted two coats on the third floor of the school. After our lunch break, we switched with the other groups and began working outside. By the playground there was a gazebo that was becoming unsafe, rotting, and no longer looked suitable for a playground. We began demolishing the gazebo, which would take us two days due to the amount of wood and nails that wouldn't come off easily because of its condition. After work, we had the opportunity to visit Mardi Gras world to learn about the true traditions of Mardi Gras, see how the floats are made, and actually got to go into the warehouse where most of the floats are kept year round.
Wednesday, July 10th:
We went back to Slyvanie Williams to continue painting and demolishing. Tish's and my group picked up where we left off and finished the demolition of the gazebo and some other benches that needed to go as well. After the demolition, we went into the building to finish painting the first floor of the school, and begin to prep the second floor for its paint job. A couple new benches also were made to put in the playground in place of the gazebo. After work, we went to a "sno ball" shop which is a New Orleans favorite. Going back to the bunkhouse, we decided to play a big game of volleyball which was so fun to be around all competitive athletes that will pick up and play any sport at any time.
Thursday, July 11th:
This was our last day at Slyvanie Williams. Our groups worked together to make the remaining benches (8 in total) and stained them to put around the school. We also painted the second floor of the school, making every floor completed with a fresh coat of paint. Once we finished our duties, the teachers all came out and showed us a song they are going to be teaching their kids this coming year. To see the teachers so excited and appreciative of our work was one of my favorite moments of the trip. These teachers had been prepping their classrooms and working the whole time we were there. You could see that teaching was much more than a job for them, and that was something I will remember for when I start my career. I want to love what I do. After work we went into the city to see the French Market in the French Quarter. We also went to the famous Cafe Du Monde for some beignets and coffee.
Friday, July 12th:
Our next organization we would be helping was called the Arc. The Arc is an organization that employs intellectual disabilities. We visited the Arc Vintage Garden and helped the current employees with some of the things they do on a daily basis. We first began weeding out the papaya tree beds and finished in no time. We moved on to a new area where nothing was planted yet. Shovels in hand, we all began digging crop lines and making garden beds. This took up our time at the garden but we were able to make 10 rows and plant a large amount of okra and butternut squash.
Saturday, July 13th:
We worked through the Arc again, but this time we went to the facility where they recycle Mardi Gras beads. The landfills in New Orleans are filled with these beads so this organization works to cut this amount each year. We worked all day detangling and separating beads into categories where they will be repackaged and sold to the people who participate in the parades. In one day our group recycled 2,000 pounds of beads! After work, we went into the city once again to walk around and see the French Quarter area. We all went to Manning's Restaurant which is in fact owned by the Manning family. After dinner we walked around some more before returning back to the bunkhouse.
Sunday, July 14th:
It is leaving day, and definitely a sad day. I am so glad to have met such an amazing group of student-athletes who all genuinely want to make a difference. The positive attitudes of everyone were remarkable and I have never been around such a determined and happy group of people in my life. I am so humbled and thankful to have had this experience, and I would like to thank SALSC for the ability to do so. This was truly a life changing experience that I will have with me forever.