CSM Students Give Back on Alternative Spring Break

            After five hours of raking an overgrown residential lot to help prepare for a community garden, College of Southern Maryland student Cat Chase, of Owings, felt rewarded when a local woman pulled up in her food truck praising the group for its hard work and offering free Creole food she had prepared.

“When a local woman stopped her food truck and was thanking the group and was grateful we were here…that was very humbling,” said Chase.

Chase, who attends the Prince Frederick Campus, was one of five CSM students who provided five days of community service on their alternative spring break service trip to New Orleans March 17 to 23.

“I’ve always wanted give back to the community—it’s rewarding,” said Chase, who plans to become a physical therapist. After clearing two abandoned housing lots she said, “It was rewarding because you could see the difference we’d made, there was a visual change.”

The students’ first day of service involved assisting a non-profit after-school program for youth in downtown New Orleans. Students helped the small staff complete their move to a new facility, which involved cleaning and moving furniture and equipment from the center’s previous location.

On another day, the group painted and mucked stalls at a horse rescue ranch that saved many horses from drowning after Hurricane Katrina. The students also visited hard-hit St. Bernard Parish where they worked at a non-profit community center stocking food and distributing food to community members in need.

The group’s final service day involved sorting Mardi Gras beads for the ARC of Greater New Orleans, an organization serving people with intellectual disabilities from the Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.

CSM student Deveraux Smith, of Waldorf, who has training as a carpenter apprentice, ventured off with other visiting groups to share his skills on several house reconstruction sites.  At one home, he helped to build a ramp for a resident in a wheelchair. On another job, he led a team in dry walling  and tiling the house of a resident who was flooded out after the hurricane and had no money to replace it.

“I’m an advocate for the community,” said Smith, who is involved in CSM’s Black Student Union. “Too many times growing up I saw people being successful who didn’t come back to help their community.” Smith’s major is social sciences and he plans to continue his education in government and politics.

Other Alternative Spring Break participants included Nataly Cruz-Castillo, of Lexington Park, a CSM Student Association representative who hopes to one day become a lawyer; Tia Dickerson, of Lusby, a CSM hospitality major and the current Prince Frederick Campus SAC president; and Kirsten Sellers, of Port Republic, the Prince Frederick Campus SAC secretary who is majoring in business.

CSM’s Diversity Coordinator Jennifer Van Cory and Assistant Professor of Communication Michelle Brosco Christian chaperoned the students.

CSM’s Center for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Coordinator Heather Zeolla coordinated the alternative spring break program. Her office works to strengthen the Southern Maryland community through experiences centered on service-learning, volunteerism and civic engagement. To learn more, visit www.csmd.edu/servicelearning/index.html.