Kent State students save Biloxi trip

Channing Hindel

Volunteers for the Kent State United for the Gulf Coast work alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers to raise a piece of the roof to be placed during the last Kent State United for Biloxi trip in March. KATIE ROUPE | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Upon hearing that Kent State United for the Gulf Coast decided to eliminate its winter trip, three students stepped in to take over the fundraising and organize the trip themselves.

“Jacob (Roope), Sarah (Weekly) and Emma (Sherrie) really impressed me with their willingness, intelligence and common sense,” Dean of Undergraduate Studies Gary Padak said.

Kent State United for the Gulf Coast made a 3-year commitment in 2006 to send volunteers to Mississippi over spring break in a relief effort to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Padak, along with faculty members George Garrison and Ron Perkins, started the program in an effort to get students involved in projects outside the campus.

This effort was galvanized when the three of them, along with 405 student and faculty volunteers, traveled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in March 2006 during Kent State’s spring break.

The trip was so successful they decided to go again the following January. On both trips, Padak said he was impressed with the students’ work ethic and their willingness to give their time and money to help people.

After another successful trip this past March, in which 150 volunteers participated, Kent State United for the Gulf Coast decided it wouldn’t send volunteers this January.

“It’s hard for a lot of us to get away in between semesters,” Padak said. “So we decided that we would support a trip, but someone else would have to step in to organize it.”

That’s when the aforementioned students decided to take action.

Roope, along with Weekly and Sherrie, founded the student group Kent State University Student Leaders United.

“Volunteering is rewarding but it wears you down,” Roope said. “They (Kent State United for the Gulf Coast) wanted to focus on the spring break trip, but us students took it upon ourselves to organize the trip over winter break.”

The three of them, with the help of Kent State United for the Gulf Coast, are currently organizing fund raisers to lower the cost for students to go to Biloxi, which, Padak said, is currently around $300 a person.

The trip during winter break will consist of about 24 students and other tradesmen who have been on previous trips. Roope said they are only taking students with prior experience because of a limited budget and the nature of the work they’ll be doing.

Part of their task is to train leaders for the upcoming trip in March.

“All the easy work, like beach and parking lot cleanups, is done,” Padak said. “This time when we go we’ll be doing more advanced projects, such as hanging drywall, in groups of eight to 10 students. It will be helpful to have some leaders among those groups who have some experience.”

Padak was enthusiastic about the upcoming trips and what they mean to students.

“What we do might just seem like a drop in the bucket,” Padak said. “But it’s really about the experience for the students. Helping people who really need it changes you and the way you think about things.”

Roope echoed Padak’s sentiments when discussing his goals for what Student Leaders United hopes to accomplish.

“We learned a lot and there was a lot of personal growth,” he said. “We want people to be the one who, when they see something that angers them, will take action to try and change things.”

Padak said they’re accepting volunteers for the trip in March. If students are interested, they can contact him in the office of Undergraduate Studies in Olson Hall.

Contact graduate and undergraduate offices reporter

Channing Hindel at [email protected]