Success Stories

Group helps tornado-stricken town

The community in Joplin, MO that was affected by a mile-wide tornado in May 2011 received help from a group of Grand Valley students who were happy to spend their spring break helping others.

The trip was part of a service-learning public administration class that was developed in 2008 to prepare students with the ability to learn how to deal with recovery from natural disasters. Quincy Williams, director of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and internship coordinator in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, accompanied students on trip. “There are some very devastated areas that haven’t been rebuilt yet,” Williams said. “Some homes are still stripped to their foundation.”

Williams has accompanied students on several service learning trips, such as Hurricane Katrina relief efforts on the Gulf Coast, water initiatives in Africa and clean up and on Indian reservations in South Dakota that were affected by ice storms.

Williams said the entire trip to Joplin was designed and prepared by students in the class. “It’s essential to offer opportunities for students to apply theories they learned in the classroom to real life situations,” he said.  

While in Joplin, students helped initiatives coordinated by Boy Scouts of America, AmeriCorps and Rebuild Joplin, an organization that focuses on rebuilding permanent housing for homeowners and renters in the town. Students helped clean up debris and construct a walking trail near a group of housing units.

“As a group I think that we gained much more than we imagined,” said Melanie Garr, a student who traveled to Joplin. “We all believed that doing something for others during our Spring Break would help the people of Joplin, but this trip helped us as individuals just as much. We regained a sense of urgency and devotion in serving others as well as a sense of gratification for what we each personally have.”

The students were featured twice on a local news station in Missouri for helping with the trails and rebuilding a house.

by Leah Twilley

This story was filed with the tags: Helping the Community