University of Rochester

Spring Break Trips Focus on Hurricane Relief, Children's Needs

March 1, 2006

The attraction to help others will draw 40 University of Rochester students to Biloxi, Miss., for Hurricane Katrina cleanup and to Baltimore, Md., to assist families during this month's Alternative Spring Break.

In fact, so many students in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering wanted to help in Louisiana and Mississippi that lotteries determined who would go. "Students will get involved with the relief efforts personally, and their experiences will bring a more human perspective to the whole situation," said Patrick Brennan, a Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year student and one of the organizers of the caravan to "Camp Biloxi," a tent city of volunteers established by the Lutheran Church.

The camp will feed and house the College's 21 volunteers, and hundreds of other people are expected at that site alone. They will get involved in clearing debris and cleanup of all kinds, and also pitch in with food preparation and other chores to keep the camp running. This year's spring break is March 11 to 19.

Another nine students organized by Hillel, the University's Jewish student organization, will handle roofing and other repairs around Biloxi. A generous grant from the Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester will help with expenses. The trip coincides with the Jewish holiday of Purim so the Hillel group will deliver traditional packages of food in both Biloxi and New Orleans. "Giving is an essential part of any Jewish celebration," said Joel Kleinberg, program director of Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges.

The chance for learning, opportunities for discussion, and direct person-to-person contact in a new geographic area are built into Alternative Spring Break programs. With two Rochester groups in Biloxi, the teams are coordinating their plans and may get together.

Ten undergraduates in the Catholic Newman Community on campus will drive to Baltimore and work at the House of Mercy, a program that offers shelter, counseling, educational services, and support to families and children. Students will tutor children in the after-school program and do necessary maintenance in the mornings. They will learn about urban poverty and other city issues as well as tour historical locations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

To cover the cost of the trips, each group is raising funds. Pancake breakfasts and luncheons have been held, and Rochester Cares T-shirts are on sale for $8 at the Common Market in Wilson Commons. On March 2 and 3, dozens of Krispy Kreme donuts will be sold at the entrance to Wilson Commons.

For more information, contact Joel Kleinberg of Hillel at; Fr. Brian Cool of the Newman Community at; and Patrick Brennan at