“I don’t want people to think the work is done:” Macalester’s Ten Years of Solidarity with New Orleans

August 31, 2015

In 2006, many 15-passenger vans arrived in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Faculty, staff, and student volunteers from campuses around the country, including Macalester College, responded to the disaster by mucking out houses, cutting back overgrowth, and helping people find a way home. Ten years after the storm, Macalester continues to stand in solidarity with it’s New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) partners, and adapted their involvement as the landscape of community recovery has evolved. These days, when staff leads Ruth Janisch Lake and Sedric McClure ask their NOLA partners “How can we support you?” their partners tell them that the lessons, struggles, and sustaining cultural institutions of New Orleans must not be forgotten.

“We’re here to discover our common humanity.”

Over the last decade Macalester has built a multifaceted connection with NOLA. In 2009 staff and faculty traveled to NOLA for the Imagining America national conference which laid the foundation for longer term partnerships with several community-based organizations. In January 2010 the Macalester Urban Faculty Colloquium was held in several neighborhoods throughout New Orleans exploring issues of community resiliency. In March of 2010 Macalester’s first-year Bonner Scholars started traveling to New Orleans for a week of study and service to dig into the complex stories of community resiliency, cultural survival, and education reform in NOLA, after preparing for the experience with a semester of curricular and experiential education. McClure tells students, “We’re not here primarily to help. We’re here to discover our common humanity.” Over time, Macalester groups have realized that they could have the greatest impact by not only providing direct service but by dissolving the illusion that New Orleans was somehow not also a story of America. Macalester’s community has been touched broadly by this partnership. Over the past ten years, over 160 students, 11 faculty and 12 staff have traveled to the area. Additionally, the local NOLA alumni group has been reinvigorated and a college trustee from NOLA regularly meets with the Mac representatives.

Read the complete post from Minnesota Campus Compact.

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