A team of Tarleton State University students who spent their spring break helping Hurricane Harvey survivors rebuild their homes will showcase their work at an exhibition on Monday, April 23.

The service-learning project was part of Crisis Communications, a course designed and taught by Communication Studies professor Dr. Cessna Winslow. Education professor Dr. James Gentry accompanied her.

Leading up to the project, the 12 students studied crisis communication strategies and then, over spring break, the team volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse—a disaster relief agency—to help residents in the Rockport, Texas, region rebuild their homes.

Under the supervision and training of Samaritan’s Purse, the team painted, caulked and installed siding, drywall, cabinets and counter tops for two homes. In addition to learning construction skills, they visited with Rockport Mayor C.J. Wax, the Rockport Chamber of Commerce and the Long-Term Recovery Team. They also toured the area and met with residents, business owners and others affected by the Category 4 hurricane that ravished the Texas Gulf Coast last August.

Team member Luke Munchrath now views life with a different perspective because of his experience.

“For me, the trip was absolutely life changing. It gave me a new perspective on how I should appreciate things I previously took for granted—electricity, fresh water, sewage and shelter to name a few,” he said. “Listening to the mayor and the survivors’ stories showed me just how amazing humanity can be when we come together to help those in need.”

The students will use photography, video and essays to share their experiences. Their stories will include Harvey’s impact on survivors, businesses and pets, along with the role disaster relief agencies play in the recovery efforts and the ongoing need for volunteers. The April 23 showcase takes place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Room 125 of the Mathematics Building on the Stephenville campus. The public is invited. 

This is the first time a course in Crisis Communications has been offered at Tarleton. Based on this semester’s success, the plan is to offer it again in 2019 and 2020.

With Samaritan’s Purse beginning to recruit volunteers to assist with rebuild following Hurricane Maria, the professors hope to do the 2019 spring break service-learning project in Puerto Rico.

“If that is not feasible,” Winslow commented, “there is a lot of rebuild work left in Rockport, and the Samaritan’s Purse team there has invited us to volunteer again next year. That mutual respect speaks well of these hard-working, compassionate Tarleton students, and I look forward to working alongside another group next spring break.”

For more information about the showcase or the course, contact Dr. Cessna Winslow at 254-968-9751 or via e-mail at cwinslow@tarleton.edu