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Pellissippi students travel to Louisiana


The Yellow Ninjas, a small subset of Pellissippi State Technical Community College’s Outdoor Club, traveled to Buras, La., a community an-hour-and-a-half south of New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina actually made landfall in the Buras area, Mary Bledsoe, Student Life and Recreation director at PSTCC, said, and the area is still in shambles nearly two years later.

The 15 club members who participated in the volunteer effort stayed in what was left of the YMCA, working alongside other college groups recruited by a relief organization called Emergency Communities.

“The local residents contacted Emergency Communities for assistance with various tasks and projects, like gutting a house, picking up trash, and planting and weeding gardens for the elderly,” Bledsoe said. “We helped a resident named Manny get electricity hooked back up to his mother’s house.”

Some of the students spent time with children at a Federal Emergency Management Ag-ency trailer park.

“There were 450 trailers 12 feet apart from each other on an old baseball field,” Bledsoe said. “It was enclosed with chain link fence and barbed wire and had security 24 hours. The Pellissippi State students did crafts and games and gave the children a lot of love. They worked with them to improve their language and politeness.”

Jared Agresta, a sophomore in computer science, said. “It was different. The residents lived in a different world with a different life than I’d ever seen before.”

He said the park was prison-like, with a fence and security guards.

Though some of the children had problems with anger, Agresta added, “When we got to know them, they were good kids.”

The Pellissippi State team played hide-and-seek, touch football and baseball, and did puzzles and face painting with the children.

Cassia Davidson worked with Agresta at the FEMA trailer park.

“There wasn’t grass anywhere, only gravel,” Davidson, who plans to transfer to Middle Tennessee State University in August, said. “The trailers were so close together you could hardly park a car between them.

“They were like RV trailers, not like home trailers. There were all these energetic kids with nothing to do.”

However, “the experience was absolutely amazing,” Davidson added.

Christie Davis, a sophomore in electronic media, agreed.

“It was probably one of the greatest experiences I ever had in my life. I didn’t realize how bad things were there and how much the people still needed help,” Davis said.

Bledsoe said she was impressed with the students’ dedication.

“The volunteers’ level of willingness was absolutely amazing,” Bledsoe said of the Pellissippi State students. “We didn’t have any apathy, complacency or laziness, or any disagreements. It was one of the best bonding experiences I’ve ever had with a student group.”

The trip wasn’t all work, however.

“We had lots of playtime,” Bledsoe said. “We stopped in New Orleans on the way down and on the way back up. The students got to experience the French Quarter and beignets [a deep-fried pastry].”

The Louisiana trip was limited to 20, she said, because only three vans were available. The next trip, however, will be open to many more.

The Outdoor Club’s next excursion has been dubbed “Tennessee Back Roads,” and is scheduled Oct. 12-15. Students will work with Habitat for Humanity in Scott and Morgan counties.

 

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