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Students spend spring break giving back

Loyola press release - April 28, 2012

While many students spent their spring break relaxing or hanging out at the beach, members of the Black Student Union at Loyola University New Orleans spent their break in Philadelphia working with the developmentally disabled.

BSU members Jasmine Barnes, Jasmine Jones, LaDadrian Darden, Jessiona Bryant, Tiffany Walker, Teri Conrad and Sabrina Stansberry, along with their adviser Courtney Williams, associate director of the Office of Residential Life, spent four days at the Philadelphia Developmental Disabilities Corporation, an extension of The Arc of Philadelphia, which is committed to providing programs and support to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The Arc formed PDDC in 1990 to offer vocational training and competitive employment to these people to improve their quality of life by increasing their independence, inclusion and choices.

For many years, the BSU has taken a traditional “unity trip” during spring break to places such as Atlanta, Chicago, Nashville and New York. BSU spent this alternative spring break volunteering and learning about Philadelphia, as well as reflecting on the experience and creating relationships not only with the PDDC participants, but with fellow students.

“It was something that I hadn’t done before. I grew closer to the people I went on the trip with as well as the participants. We developed life-long bonds with them,” said Stansberry.

In addition to working with Arc and the PDDC staff to clean the property, the group also worked directly with PDDC participants, and shared with them the history of New Orleans and Mardi Gras, which included staging a building-wide parade.

“We shared the history of Mardi Gras through music, powerpoint presentations and pictures,” said Barnes, president of the BSU. “We made masks and crowns for everyone in the parade so they could have the chance to be king and queen of Mardi Gras. We paraded throughout the whole facility and everyone was given Zulu coconuts, doubloons and beads as we played brass band music and danced.”

“It was truly a gift to work with PDCC. By working with them and the special needs individuals, we all were able to open our eyes and realize that although they possess special needs, they truly are not all that different from us,” said Walker.

For more information, contact Barnes at jmbarne2@loyno.edu.

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