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Law students help revitalize New Orleans neighborhood

  • Student Hurricane Network Volunteers
    Student Hurricane Network Volunteers  W&M Law students assisted the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans during spring break. Kelly Kennedy '11, Justin Hoover '11, Tony Guo '12, Ed Finn '11, Samatha Edge'10, Ashley Ward '12, Michelle Hopkins '12, and Christina Sartorio '12; second row, from left, Rev. Lois DeJean, Director of the Gert Town Revival Initiative, Tamar Jones '11, Ashley Dolan '11, and Juanita Murkey '10; third row, from left, Laura Jacobson '11 (seated at bottom), Christina Jacquet '12, and Jason Mackey '12.  Photo courtesy of the W&M Law School, Irving Johnson III
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Fourteen students at William & Mary Law School spent spring break in the Gert Town neighborhood of New Orleans helping residents revitalize an area damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The Student Hurricane Network, a law student group dedicated to supporting social justice in Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, organized and funded the trip. This is the third spring break in a row that students from the Law School have traveled to help with recovery efforts in New Orleans. This year, students focused on providing manual labor to the Gert Town neighborhood. SHN worked with the Gert Town Revival Initiative to help sand, chip, paint, and clear debris, and even shored  up rotted stairs for homes owned by three elderly residents.

Several William & Mary law students volunteered in Gert Town during last year’s trip, so this year SHN chose to continue the group’s involvement with the neighborhood. The students savored anan amazing supper of fried catfish and jambalaya, cooked by Miss Gloria at her restaurant which last year’a volunteers helped repair.

2009-10 SHN President Tamar Jones ’11 said the students were eager to make the return trip.  “We have formed relationships in Gert Town,” she said.  “We're invested in their development, and, most importantly, they know that we care about them.”

Members of SHN raised money for the trip through pancake breakfasts, jambalaya and rice lunches, and a Mardi Gras themed party, At the end of their trip this past March, the students donated $500 of the money they raised to the Gert Town Revival Initiative.  The students had to be very energetic fundraisers this year as the national organization decided to dissolve in 2009. The group’s members and Executive Board -  including Jones, Vice President  Laura Jacobson, Secretary Kelly Kennedy, and Treasurer Ashley Dolan- planned and funded this year’s trip.

“It is humbling to see how much work remains to be done in New Orleans after nearly 5 years,” Jones said. “ It is equally as rewarding to serve and contribute to the revitalization of the New Orleans community.  The work that SHN members do is so much more important than painting a house: we effect change in the lives of others by working on the physical condition of the New Orleans community, as well as in the hearts of the community members.”