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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Rebuilding homes in NOLA

ACE, CEL and Alternative Breaks, headed to New Orleans

Today we started the day with breakfast at our hostel. There were pancakes, coffee, fruit, and cereal. We made it to the worksite by 9am and worked for 3 hours alongside the executive director of Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. This is an organization for youth to rebuild homes that have been damaged by hurricanes. The executive director, William Stoudt, is the founder of the organization and was impacted by a hurricane when he was 17.

At that time, William and his friends were interested in helping with rebuilding efforts, but because they were younger than 18 were kept from the experience due to liability issues. And while William’s first priority was to rebuild existing homes, the organization has grown and now its members not only rebuild existing homes, but they also buy homes to rebuild and sell.

Their focus is on retention and recruitment of teachers, so the homes that they work on and the homes that they sell are primarily for teachers, because they appreciate that teachers have a great influence on what happens to our youth.

The house we’re working on in New Orleans

At the worksite, we were split up into smaller groups (there are 2 site leaders, myself, and 7 other students on the trip) where we worked with several part-time employees of the organization. The part-time staff are all young people – college students pursuing majors like criminal justice and engineering.

Several of us went inside a house to remove existing insulation, repair the studs, and then reinsulate. Another group went to the back of the house to tear down an exterior wall, remove bad insulation, and then build that exterior wall back up. Two other groups went outside to work on exterior siding. The group I was in removed siding that was buckling and replaced it (after careful measuring and cutting with a circular saw) with new concrete-based siding.

We worked diligently through the morning and took an hour lunch to enjoy the sunshine and eat the sack lunches that we prepared this morning. Most of the students napped – some in our SMU van, and some on the sidewalk and grass.

After an hour we went back to work, continuing our projects. We stopped working by 4pm and came back to the hostel for a much needed respite.

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Insulating an exterior wall

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