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Mar 25th, 2014

Students Spend Spring Break Giving Back to Hurricane-Ravaged News Orleans

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Left to right, Christina McClung, Cassie Kosky, Meighan Avalos and Rachel Smith cleaning out spackle buckets.

HIGH POINT, N.C., March 24, 2014 – A group of students from the High Point University chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity, spent their spring break volunteering in New Orleans with Camp Restore.

The group of 16 students and one adviser spent the week rebuilding three homes affected by Hurricane Katrina as part of HPU’s Alternative Break Program. Much of their time was spent working to hang drywall and repairing flood damage in the ravaged homes.

Nine years after the Category 5 storm destroyed the region, houses remain abandoned, and whole neighborhoods remain in ruins.

Meighan Avalos, senior admissions counselor and APO faculty adviser, says it was an eye opening experience to see how Hurricane Katrina is still affecting New Orleans today.

“Giving back is what our organization is based on – we are a service fraternity, and our passion is volunteering and giving,” Avalos says. “We were able to meet the homeowners of the houses we worked on and their appreciation and gratitude was nothing but rewarding. Not only did we become closer within our chapter, but we also gained new friendships through Camp Restore.”

The New Orleans trip was the fourth alternative break trip for fraternity member Arabella Levinsky, who says volunteering with these service projects is an opportunity for her to give back.

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Ellen Barker helps with home repairs.

“It is so refreshing and rewarding to spend time working and bonding with people in need, and then to see all the improvement at the end of the week,” says Levinsky. “We worked alongside the family members of the homes we were rebuilding, and their gratitude and positive outlook really restored my faith in humanity, in that we all really do want help each other to make this world a better and more loving place.”

Alpha Phi Omega has volunteered in New Orleans in the past with the area Habitat for Humanity. Students have been completing similar projects on spring break since 2005, including roof construction in Mexico, flood recovery in Iowa, Atlanta and Nashville, hurricane response in Texas, a food gleaning project in Orlando, a safe-housing project in Florida and hurricane relief in Mississippi.

The New Orleans Alternative Break was one of three student service trips taken during HPU’s spring break. A group of 11 volunteers traveled to New Jersey to aid in Hurricane Sandy Relief. Another group of 11 students spent a week of service in Haiti with Reverend Preston Davis, Minister to the University.

Alternative Break trips are one of many ways that students, faculty and staff contribute more than 100,000 hours of service locally, nationally and internationally each year.