ACE and Alternative Breaks 2012 in NOLA

J. Michael Cruz, director of the Dedman College Center for Academic-Community Engagement (ACE), is participating in the Alternative Breaks trip to New Orleans in December. Participants in the trip, which is co-sponsored by ACE and the office of Community Engagement and Leadership, are working with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. You can follow the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SMU.ACE

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A productive day and NOLA-style dinner

Hard at work

Day 5 with YRNO, and we spent it at the S. Salcedo Street house again. We basically got into the same groups we were in yesterday – Adam worked with Prince and Terrance on the exterior siding; Monica, Karissa, and Dan worked on the exterior as well with Mr. Leonard (who I found out used to teach Religion at the high school Ryan attended); the rest of us worked inside. Again, Shauna and Danny used the chop saw to cut quarter-inch trim to length; Emily and I took measurements for the needed pieces; Anthony and Janice spent the morning painting the quarter-inch round; Kimberly spent almost the entire day countersinking nails hammered into the baseboards yesterday.

We took a mid-morning break and chatted with Ryan for a while. I found out he is now 19 and has been with YRNO since he was in 7th or 8th grade. Gutting and rebuilding homes has been something he has done since middle school when Katrina came through New Orleans. Once again we worked diligently until noon when we broke for lunch and ate from our sack lunches. Immediately after lunch Monica fell asleep in the warm sun on the sidewalk, and several students took their lunchtime snooze on the van.

Janice and Anthony

Late in the morning we were joined at the house by two travelers from France! And during lunch we got to know a bit more about them. Opal is from Florida and has lived in Paris for five years. She moved there from NYC, and this was a vacation for her and her partner Bertrand. They were back in the US for 10 days this trip. (She mentioned they get eight weeks of vacation in France, and they come back to the US at least once per year.) Opal told us that she initially worked as an English teacher and currently works for the French government. I asked her reason for coming to NOLA on vacation and getting involved with service work, and she indicated wanting to make her vacation more meaningful with the service work.

After lunch, in the front of the house, Karissa, Monica, and Dan worked with Mr. Leonard to reinforce wall studs by adding wood to the existing studs. They also built the wall out by about a quarter of an inch. Once again, Adam worked with Prince and Terrance on siding, and the rest of us went back to completing the job of adding the quarter-inch round to the baseboards. With the painting completed, Janice took to nailing the finishing nails into the quarter-inch round. Anthony helped Mr. Leonard by cleaning paint brushes, and Opal and Bertrand were inside the house with us, caulking gaps between the baseboards and the wall.

Dan, Karissa, Adam, and Monica ended the workday with insulating the front room where they had been reinforcing the studs.

At 4pm we left the worksite and headed to a nearby park, where the students played a few rounds of Birdie on a Perch and Knights and Dragons. By about 5:30pm we were back at the hostel for showers and to get ready for dinner. Tonight we ate at Katie’s Restaurant. This is a small family-owned restaurant that was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Dan and Danny challenged themselves by eating their famous sandwich “The Barge.” We were all quite surprised when it showed up at the table (since the menu says it feeds two to four people) and it was about four feet long and overflowing with catfish, oysters, and shrimp.

The waitstaff also brought out a complimentary dessert and sang the birthday song to Dan since his birthday is on the 20th, when we leave NOLA.

We skipped reflection tonight since we’re all pretty much in a food coma. We’ve had a very busy and productive time working with YRNO, and after such an enormous and delicious meal we’re all ready for bed early.

You can also follow ACE on Facebook.

Dinner!

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