Nichols College News

Students Spend Spring Break Rebuilding New Orleans

For the second year in a row, a group of Nichols students journeyed to New Orleans during their spring break—the week of March 17th—to spend 12-hour days doing demolition, putting up drywall, and installing hardwood floors.

Representing the Nichols Center for Student Involvement, seniors Mike Kowal, Gianna Raffa, and Stephen Mack and juniors Mike Shaheen, Abby Gould, Colleen Coleman and Alyce Viens were joined on the trip by sophomores Amanda Lovejoy and Kerry Postale, as well as faculty chaperone and academic advisor Nora Cavic.

The nearly dozen Nichols volunteers worked in areas in the city that still have recovered from devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as well as the more recent Hurricane Isaac. They were assigned to particular construction projects by Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul, a non-profit that arranges service trips by students and other volunteers and provides their housing.

Prior to their journey, the Nichols students had raised more than $6,000 for donations to rebuilding efforts and for their airfare.

While the mornings in New Orleans were dedicated to putting up drywall in rebuilt houses, notes Cavic, “Every afternoon our group went to different sites to demolish the homes that were still sitting there since Hurricane Katrina.” That work involved tearing up moldy carpets, ripping out cabinets, and knocking down entire walls.

The Nichols crew—outfitted in masks, goggles, and heavy gloves—proved a quick study in wielding sledge hammers and crowbars on the demolition side and laying down wood floors on the construction side, Cavic says, adding that there was time for some local experiences after the long workday had ended.

Those experiences included plenty of southern food, a jazz concert, and a swamp boat tour. But, Cavic stresses, the Nichols students focused their considerable energies on the construction tasks at hand.

“I was amazed at how seriously they took their work and at their persistence. They were exhausted by the end of the day, but they never complained,” Cavic reports. “I think they understood the depth of what needed to be done.”