Mark A. Schexnayder, Vaughn, James A., Morgan, Johnny W. | 1/12/2006 3:32:05 AM
NEW ORLEANS – Eager to get a feel for recovery work, nine students from McDaniel College in Maryland are spending two weeks with LSU AgCenter agents lending a hand in the cleanup following Hurricane Katrina.
Mark Schexnayder, who heads the LSU AgCenter’s Hurricane Katrina Task Force, said this is the second group of college students for which he’s helped to coordinate their work.
"What we’re doing this week is cleanup work for citrus growers and around nurseries in Plaquemines Parish as well as here at City Park," Schexnayder said as he worked with the students earlier this month. "They will also be working with a commercial seafood dock in Empire to help them get back up and running."
The McDaniel students arrived in New Orleans Jan. 4 and plan to be in the area for two weeks.
Jennie Walker, a professor at the small liberal arts college in Westminster, Md., and the leader of the group, said this trip is actually part of a class project. Although the college is officially closed until Jan. 19, the McDaniel students are earning college credit during this intense two-week session.
"This project actually started with a fund-raiser, where we collected donations to send down here, but the students wanted to actually come down and help out," Walker said. "So I hurriedly put the class together in mid-December."
Walker said a few of the previous trips for her classes were to look at counterculture in San Francisco and Yosemite, and to the Everglades, which is an ecosystem that needs to be protected.
"The trips that my classes have taken in the past had strictly an educational focus during the shortened session after Christmas break, but this was the first one with the service component," she said.
Schexnayder and LSU AgCenter county agent Alan Vaughn of Plaquemines Parish have been instrumental in getting these volunteer groups in touch with the people in their areas who need help the most.
Vaughn said the groups have done some much-needed work in his area with nurseries and citrus farmers.
"It’s just amazing to see these young people give up their winter break from school to come down here to help out," Vaughn said.
David Carpenter, the garden manager for the New Orleans City Park Botanical Garden, spent two days with the students as they helped to take down Christmas decorations in the park.
A smaller version of the park’s annual Christmas in the Oaks celebration was held this year during the recovery efforts, but hosting that celebration and continuing cleanup from the storms have stretched the park staff to its limits.
Help from groups such as the McDaniel students will help the park staff continue toward the goal of having the park back open daily by mid-February, Carpenter said.
"With up to 4 feet of floodwater over the park for about two weeks, many of the plants died, but with the help of volunteers like these students and the Master Gardeners, we can see a lot of recovery," he said. Louisiana Master Gardeners from the area, who are specially trained LSU AgCenter volunteers, also have been participating in the park’s recovery efforts.
Colleen Leary, a graduate student in English at McDaniel, said coming down to help had nothing to do with her major but was important to her.
"As soon as I heard about Katrina, I wanted to just drop out of school and rush down here and help," she said.
Leary said the pictures don’t do justice to what has happened here and that it’s something people have to see to believe.
"You really can’t fathom how these people must feel, coming back to nothing. Everything is destroyed," she said.
Schexnayder said other groups have come to the city to help, such as a group of farmers from the Midwest and a group of Ohio State University students who came to the city last month. He also said that a Mennonite group may set up here for a long-term operation of rebuilding houses and whatever else they are able to do.
"It’s been great having people to come down here and jump right in, helping to do whatever needs to be done," Schexnayder said, adding, "This will be a long project, and we can use all the help we can get."
For more details on the variety of work done by the LSU AgCenter, visit www.lsuagcenter.com. Or to volunteer to help in the area’s recovery process, contact Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Schexnayder at (504) 838-1170 or email@example.com
Alan Vaughn at (504) 278-4234 or firstname.lastname@example.org Writer:
Johnny Morgan at (225) 281-0814 or email@example.com