EWING, NJ – Spring “break” begins this week at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), but students and staff are heading down to the Jersey shore and New Orleans to work on relief projects as a result of Superstorm Sandy as well as Hurricane Katrina.
As part of the campus’ Here for Home Campaign, TCNJ has partnered with the New Jersey Army National Guard, Shore 2 Recovery, the Durand Masonic Lounge, and the Corporation for National and Community Service to create an Alternative Spring Break experience for students interested in helping the shore area recover from the disaster.
Approximately 100 TCNJ students, staff and other volunteers will travel to Sea Girt throughout the week to help with various relief efforts, including debris removal along the shoreline, dismantling mangled boardwalks, cleaning parks, and gutting homes in the Point Pleasant area. They will be guided by students and staff from TCNJ’s Bonner Scholars program from March 11 to 15.
These volunteers will be joined by students in the Isles Youthbuild, an alternative education and job training program in the City. TCNJ students tutor youth participants during the academic year. In addition, members from the New Jersey Bonner Leaders AmeriCorps program and staff from the Bonner Foundation in Princeton will pitch in during the week.
The National Guard will house the crews of staff and students at its Training Center in Sea Girt, where the volunteers will also complete some post-Sandy projects, from March 11 through the 15. Shore 2 Recovery and the Masonic Lodge, based in Point Pleasant, will connect the TCNJ teams to the needs of residents. They are also rallying local businesses like Joe Leone’s to help feed the workers.
Shore 2 Recovery and the Lodge started working with TCNJ shortly after the storm hit. As part of their early efforts, students canvassed the neighborhoods to help the Masons identify the needs of their neighbors so they could help deliver a response. The Guard is a new partner and one that will significantly build TCNJ’s capacity to mobilize volunteers to help their home state.
The student-led Alternative Break Club will spend the same week refurbishing homes in New Orleans—deepening the College’s commitment to that region as well. ABC students have travelled to work on Katrina projects since 2008. Twenty-four volunteers are participating in this this trip in a new partnership with Youth Rebuild New Orleans. St. Giles Presbytery in Greensville, South Carolina will house the students on their way down and back to the city. The Bonner Scholars program started sending student and staff volunteers to New Orleans in 2006.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend my break,” commented Shaun Fields, a senior TCNJ student and Bonner Scholar.
“As an alumna, I am very proud of the College’s response,” added Stephanie Kraver, a VISTA volunteer based at the College and coordinator of the effort.
“We’ll be back in the area on the 23rd with two more buses of student volunteers—this is not the end,” stated Christina Kopka, president of TCNJ Student Government.
“This campaign is built for the long-term,” according to Patrick Donohue, assistant provost for community engaged learning programs and partnerships. “We know from Katrina how long this will take.” Donohue also noted that TCNJ is also collaborating with Jersey Shore Workcamp and, more recently, with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). NJIT has made a public appeal for 1,000 New Jersey students to help during the month of March.