Thursday, January 18, 2007

“Louisiana Winter” students set up shop at MGCCC

Photo: Students from San Jose St. University speak with Pass Christian residents during “Louisiana Winter” Jan. 17

Public Information Office, Contact: Bill Snyder
Office: (601) 928-6315; Cell: (228) 323-4816
For Immediate Release January 18, 2006

“Louisiana Winter” students set up shop at MGCCC

In the 1960s, college students flocked to the South to try and spur on the Civil Rights movement. In 2007, students representing 25 colleges and universities are in Louisiana and Mississippi taking the same approach to a new challenge. It doesn’t matter where they’re from, the goal is the same: make a difference for the people still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Welcome to “Louisiana Winter,” a week-long civic-works project aimed at promoting the drafting and passage of legislation that would give 100,000 displaced and dispossessed workers jobs rebuilding their own communities in the wake of Katrina.

“I’ve wanted to come to this area ever since the storm hit,” said Kwame Thomas, sociology major at San Jose State University. “This is my chance to be part of something and really make a difference.”

The journey began at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jefferson Davis Campus with breakfast, then a short walk to the auditorium, where students listened to riveting stories from Katrina survivors.

“As one lady told her story and started to cry, that made me cry,” said Carolina Avalos, another San Jose University student. “That’s what made me come here. I always put myself in their shoes, and think to myself, ‘what if that was me?’ My family has been in situations where we needed help, so now it’s my chance to give back and help someone else.”

Avalos and five others spent a chilly afternoon canvassing the streets of Pass Christian, a city that was nearly wiped off the map by Katrina. Students went door-to-door to inform residents about the legislation and encourage them to contact their senators and representatives to ask them to write and pass the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project legislation.

Along the way they got a ground-zero look at the devastation that still remains 17 months after the storm. They also interacted with Pass Christian residents like Leon Roberts. He lost everything in Katrina and said he’s more than happy to support the idea.

“I think these kids are on the right track,” Roberts said. “People around the country think we’re all right now, but we’re not.”

The goal is to stir up enough interest in the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project and turn it into legislation. Not only do these students want to create 100,000 jobs, but they also want to restore personal empowerment and hope, and also restore people’s faith in government.

“People have plenty of questions,” Thomas said. “We don’t have all the answers, but we want to find them.”

The event concludes with town-hall meetings, followed by a mass rally in New Orleans on Jan. 20.


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