September marked 10 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Four months later, Susquehanna sent its first team of students, faculty and staff to Louisiana to aid in the clean-up efforts. These hurricane-relief trips over winter break transitioned into GO (Global Opportunities) New Orleans a few years later when the university started requiring all students to have a cross-cultural experience off campus.
During the service-learning trip, students work with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in the still-rebuilding city. Football player Ken Milano ’15 chose GO New Orleans to fulfill his cross-cultural requirement. Katie Meier, director of athletics communications, talked with Milano about his experience.
Meier: Why did you choose this particular GO experience?
Milano: It fit perfectly in my schedule, because I would not miss school or athletics. I had never been on a plane before, so I wanted my first trip to be within the U.S. It was also the best financial option for me.
Meier: Before you left on the trip, what were you expecting the city to look like?
Milano: I expected it to be very crowded and filled with locals and tourists. I pictured the surrounding land to be all swamps and lakes.
Meier: And how did reality fit with those expectations?
Milano: The way I pictured the city was exactly how it was; there was always something going on and the sidewalks were always crowded. What I did not expect was the amount of surrounding neighborhoods that were still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina. There are still countless abandoned homes that have not been touched.
Meier: Describe the work you did there.
Milano: We worked with Habitat eight days from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. The work varied day to day. One day we poured concrete for a driveway; another we put up siding on a house and framed doors. Whatever the Habitat director needed done, we helped do it.
Meier: What surprised you most?
Milano: The most surprising part of the trip was the tour of the Evergreen Sugarcane Plantation, which used to be a slave-owning plantation. I do not think any of us were ready for how bone-chilling it was going to be when the guide brought us through the slave quarters and explained
what they had to endure.
Meier: What impact did the trip have on you and your perception of the people of New Orleans?
Milano: Prior to the trip, I don’t think I had a perception [of them]. But after, I would say that they are very proud of where they come from. I spoke with many locals who were affected by Katrina, and they all returned to New Orleans to rebuild and start again.