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In June, nine Scholars and three chaperones from the Schuler Scholar Program traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild houses in the Lower Ninth Ward, the neighborhood that suffered the most damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and is still experiencing the devastation brought by the storm today. We volunteered through an organization called lowernine.org, which works specifically in this neighborhood and has a very strong relationship with the community. We wanted the Scholars to be able to do something meaningful on the trip, but also to experience the culture and history of New Orleans that is such an important part of the American story.
Alyssa Canda (Waukegan High School Class of 2014) reflected on the trip by creating a collage of words and images to represent her experience. Below is an excerpt of the text.
New Orleans Mega Exposure 2013
“The City of Second Chances.” These words were eccentrically graffitied with vibrant colors. That was my first impression of New Orleans, Louisiana. The title is slightly deceiving because some people may interpret it as the city only offering second chances vs. the city also needing second chances.
After my visit to New Orleans, I learned the latter rings truer when considering efforts to rebuild the city and its suburbs from the hurricane devastations. Organizations such as lowernine.org offer a second chance for residents to rebuild their business, their home, their life; yet, even after 8 years passed since the hurricanes, a majority of the population still has not returned to New Orleans. The fear of history repeating itself is too great…
I’m proud of the people I volunteered with, and it was sad to say goodbye to New Orleans. A director of Lowernine.org estimated it would take another 10-15 years to restore all of New Orleans, including the Lower 9th Ward. Despite the prolonged recovery, with utmost patience, the residents maintain the sincerest hope for the future of their community.
We had a chance to explore many parts of New Orleans from the lively French Quarter with its haunted, moonlit streets, with Café du Monde and its beignets, with Preservation Hall and its passionate jazz band, to the solemn grounds of historic cemeteries, to the depths of the bayou, to the common sight of trees profusely adorned with beads. These sights of the city lived on.
Although many hurricanes ravaged New Orleans, the soul of the city endures in the hearts of those who choose to be the hope that outshines the overcast of tribulation.