The Saint Mary's Katrina relief team was lauded by Ellen DeGeneres during her nationally syndicated show on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The show focused on New Orleans at Mardi Gras.
Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Shawny Anderson, who led two dozen students to New Orleans for a Jan Team class "Bridges to the Bayou: Direct Hurricane Relief in New Orleans," was the first audience member interviewed by DeGeneres. Anderson related how the students put in 4,000 hours of work clearing 23 destroyed homes and helping restore parks, monuments and community gardens.
Anderson said she was pleased to be able to share the results of the team's hard work, and hoped to inspire other teachers and students.
"We didn't really care about the publicity factor," she said. "We really hoped the show would give us a way to inspire others, to show that it is possible to make a difference. It's hard, but it can be done."
Allison Arkfeld, a 19-year-old sophomore psychology major, was thrilled to be part of an audience filled with other relief workers and citizens of New Orleans, a city she came to think of as home even though she had never been there before January.
"It was fun to enjoy the company of the class, have a good time in the spirit of Mardi Gras and celebrate New Orleans and the culture it had," she said. "I wish I would've seen it as it was before, but I plan on going back. Hopefully it will become a city as it was before, or even better."
Arkfeld, Anderson and others involved in the relief work said that although it was physically and emotionally difficult, it was a life-changing experience and the best thing they've ever done.
"I'm a lot more grateful for everything I have, for where I live, for my family," said 19-year-old sophomore Fernando Campos, a business major. "After the hurricane, I was trying to find a way to give back."
Information about the show can be found online at: http://ellen.warnerbros.com/thisweek/.
Information about the Hurricane Relief course can be found at: http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/nola.
Office of College Communications