Keep up with all things New Orleans as this group of 14 Missouri State University students venture out to explore New Orleans' history and dedication to urban renewal!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thank You to Everyone Involved!

Finally, I just want to thank everyone who was instrumental in creating this trip. I apologize if this sounds like an Oscar’s acceptance speech. Although I certainly believe I do deserve an Oscar, it will never happen. I just am amazed that everyone has come together to help make this trip so amazing, and I appreciate all the time that was put into this by everyone.

Thank you to Walter and Aubrey for helping me and Kelly prepare for the trip, and thank you to Patrick Grayshaw for being such a great advisor to Bear Breaks.  

To all of the New Orleans participants – Thank you so much for coming on this journey with us. You are all such hard workers and I really enjoyed getting to know you and growing with you all!

Amanda Gabbard – We all really appreciate the many hours that you have put in to all of these trips. You are awesome, and none of these trips would have been so great without all of your help!

Jared Cates and Michelle Ciesielski – You are both awesome advisors. I really appreciate that you listened and gave awesome advice. Whether it was about the trip or life in general, you were very understanding and genuine, and I am glad I was able to open up with you and talk to you about everything. I have no doubt that you will both do great things working with students in the future. I really look up to both of you very much.

Kelly Mazzoni – Thank you for planning this trip with me! I really enjoyed working with you and getting to know you for the past year. Even though we “bicker like a married couple” all of the time, I really have enjoyed it all. Thank you for dealing with me for so long. Come visit me in Cincinnati!

Thank you to anyone else who has assisted us throughout the process. The past two years’ alternative breaks have been my favorite college experiences, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Thank you!

Daniel Schekorra

Evaluation of the New Orleans Trip

I really hope that everyone has enjoyed reading about our experience in New Orleans. It was such a great educational experience and we were all thrilled to be able to serve the New Orleans community that still has a long way to recover following Hurricane Katrina and years of racial oppression.

As you probably know, our topic was Urban Renewal and Oppression. We spent our week examining the issue of racism in New Orleans’ past, present, and future, and the socio-economic, cultural, and physical aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. Please read the previous posts if you have not done so to find out what we did during each day. Right now I would like to talk about what we all learned and what it all means. Our reflection discussions have given me insights into how these students have grown throughout the week.

I really believe that everyone who went on the trip learned a lot about our topics. The Whitney Plantation explored past oppression, but our group saw firsthand that racial oppression is definitely not a thing of the past. By having discussions with locals and through our service opportunities, everyone was better able to get an idea of New Orleans culture and the devastation caused by Katrina. Finally, we brought our topics together by discussing the racial issues that arose in Katrina’s aftermath. These issues include the predominantly black/African American neighborhoods being more harmed and slower to recover than predominantly white neighborhoods, and a decreasing proportion of African American population following the disaster compared to other ethnicities.

So what does this all mean for our participants? Natural disasters happen. Sometimes the devastation can be minimized. For example, with proper construction of levees, floodwalls, etc., New Orleans can be better protected from hurricanes. But was there a way for Joplin to protect itself from a tornado? I believe that everyone who went on the trip is a leader and will want to help out with any disasters that happen in the community. If they see a problem in the area, they will act on it. Oppression is also an issue in Springfield. I believe that the best way to overcome this in our area is to promote diversity in the area. The 2010 census discovered that 88.7% of the population in the area is white. By working with programs promoting diversity and acceptance of all people, the Springfield community is heading in the right direction towards reducing oppression. I really hope that everyone who participated will take what they learned on the trip and share it with others, and use their new knowledge to better the Springfield community.

On the first day of the trip, I asked the participants to describe what comes to mind when they think of New Orleans. Almost all responses regarded tangible things, food, or ideas such as “great music,” “creole,” and “great fishing.” When I asked them the same question on the final night of the trip, some of the responses that I received were “devastation,” “oppression,” “strong culture,” and much more. None of the responses that night had to do with the tangible things of the city. They focused on the city’s resilience. The strong people and truly unique culture have overcome everything the city has been through. It was really great to see everyone’s opinions on the issues and the city change and develop and evolve throughout the week. I am so proud of everyone and everything we have done.

Daniel Schekorra

Photos From Our Final Day in The Big Easy!

Here are some photos from our day in the wetlands!  We spent the day planting trees and enjoying our last day in New Orleans as a group!  We ended the day with snowballs to celebrate all the participants' hard work this week!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation

Hello, everyone! This is Daniel Schekorra, again, and I am one of the two trip leaders. I apologize for posting this so late, but we had a busy, late day on Friday! I wanted to tell you some things about working with the St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation on Friday, and I thought better late than never!

First off, I want to mention why the Wetlands are important to New Orleans. Basically, the Wetlands act as a barrier to floodwaters. The Wetlands are located just outside the city, and saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico has been killing the trees in the area. The trees absorb energy from hurricanes, taming the surge. The Wetlands Foundation restores trees to the area that can handle the current Wetlands conditions and distributes them to people who live in the area.

I am very proud to say that our small group of 14 students planted over 530 potted trees. Additionally, we assisted in removing trees that had unfortunately not grown sufficiently. Of all of the days that we did service, this definitely required the most physical labor. I know that my back is definitely sore a day later!

Throughout the week, our group has made connections with various people who live in New Orleans and developed a fondness for the city’s culture. I am very proud of everyone’s hard work yesterday, and hopefully our work will contribute to the ultimate goal of lessening the devastation of the inevitable hurricanes that New Orleans will see in the future. This work was our group’s way of trying to protect those people that we care about and the incredible culture.

I am going to stop this post a little short. In our reflection last night, we discussed how much this trip meant to everyone and how we can take the skills and knowledge we have learned and apply it to the Springfield area. Please read the next post where I will discuss our reflection and wrap up the trip from my trip leader point of view!

Daniel Schekorra

Friday, March 14, 2014

Photos from the French Quarter

Sorry we've been a little behind on posting photos.  Check out these photos of our day yesterday!  We explored the Hurricane Katrina Museum and the French Quarter!

Here are some photos of our busy day on Wednesday!  We got a tour of the Lower Ninth Ward from Tulane geology professor, Steve Nelson.  The group stopped at a seafood restaurant for lunch and afterwards, we headed to the APEX Youth Center where we spent our afternoon talking and playing with kids!

Photos From the Senior Center and Creole Creamery!

Sorry we're a little behind posting pictures!  Here are some photos from Wednesday when we visited the senior center and had the opportunity to meet life-time residents of New Orleans and hear first-hand what it's like to live here.  Afterwards, we headed out for some Creole Creamery and then reflection back at Camp Restore!