MBA students Elke Braeutigam and Kristina Crockett were among 22 MBA students who recently helped rebuild houses in the Big Easy.
By Kristina Crockett, MBA Class of 2008
This past Christmas break a small group of MBA students traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild homes through the United Way's St. Bernard Project. The trip was a great success, so Dean Steve Salbu he encouraged another group trip to be organized at the end of the spring semester.
The College of Management showed tremendous support by offering to pay the travel expenses. The response from first-year MBA students was strong, with 22 students volunteering one week of vacation to go down to New Orleans to help. We had 17 students go the first week in May and a smaller group of five the following week.
I was in the first group and want to highlight some of our experiences. Although it’s been almost two years since Hurricane Katrina, it was shocking to see the condition of the St. Bernard Parish and surrounding areas. Many families were still living in trailers on their front lawns, and other neighborhoods were like ghost towns with boarded-up and unlivable homes. The commercial properties were just as bad, and it was often hard to find a gas station or place to eat.
Our group was split up to work on three different homes. These homes were literally blocks from the levies and had been totally submerged for weeks after the storm. The homes had to be completely gutted. We helped put up new drywall, mud, sand, texture, and paint. It was very rewarding to see how much a dedicated crew could get done in just a few days!
Typically the homes can be restored in about seven weeks with adequate volunteers. We received heartfelt thanks from the homeowners and the community. When we were on lunch breaks at local diners, we had numerous locals come talk to us to find out where we were from and express their gratitude.
We had the opportunity to visit the home the previous group of students had helped out in December. It was really rewarding to see the family back in the home with furniture and pictures on the wall. They had just moved out of the trailer, which was still on their front lawn and scheduled to be picked up the next week. The guys reminisced about how hard it was to get that dry wall perfect in the bay window and how great it looked now that the kitchen was finished.
In the evenings, we enjoyed the French Quarter’s food and entertainment. Several students braved the stage to do karaoke at the Cat’s Meow. We all went to hear Fat Al sing his jazz and danced to some local bands. New Orleans is so rich with culture and local tradition that we were all grateful to have the opportunity to help out. Thanks to the College of Management for their support, and we look forward to planning more trips in the future!
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