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Publish date: Jun 20, 2011

CUNYAC efforts make a difference in New Orleans

The City University of New York Athletic Conference completed a 10-day goodwill trip to New Orleans on June 4 that Commissioner Zak Ivkovic called “a resounding success.”

“It was priceless to see our students work hard to make a difference in New Orleans and do it all with a smile and a helping hand,” Ivkovic said. “I couldn’t ask for more from them.”

The tour was the first sponsored by the CUNYAC since 2007 when a team of baseball all-stars went to Italy. This year’s trip featured scholar-athletes from all CUNY members who participated in community-service projects to help in the rebuilding of New Orleans. The tour included 20 students and 10 staff members.

“We have done more than just paint, build and clean up the area. We have made a real difference in people’s lives just by listening to their stories and the pain they went through,” said Herschel Jenkins, a basketball student-athlete at College of Staten Island. “These people have also affected me. I have a greater appreciation for life and what I have.”

Hunter volleyball and tennis student-athlete Alisa Jaganjac agreed.

“I have had the opportunity to meet people with the biggest and warmest hearts,” she said. “Everyone welcomed us with open arms and would not stop thanking us for just showing up. They kept reminding us that our presence here gives them hope. What they don’t understand is they have given me more than I could ever give them.”

The CUNYAC entourage worked at several locations during their week-and-a-half visit, including the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward where the group hosted a sports clinic for dozens of children.

Participants also worked regularly through the Annunciation Mission in New Orleans. At one point, tour members watched a brief video that showed the plight of Father Jerry Kramer, of the Church of the Annunciation. He was shown walking toward the church in the days after Katrina, able to find his way only after he saw some neighbors who gave him their boat.

The effect of the video was telling, since it showed Kramer walking into the same entrance to the mission that the group CUNYAC group had been traversing daily in their stay.

“Seeing the video was heartbreaking,” said Kevin McKessey of Medgar Evers College. “I got a chance to speak with Perry, a truck driver who was interviewed in the video. He was telling me how difficult it was to leave the city during Katrina. The highways were backed up, and then if you got off an exit, you would not be allowed to get back on. When he got to Atlanta, he never planned on coming back. When the mission asked for his help, though, he returned, and when he saw how much good he could do for the community, he stayed.”

Upon the group’s return on June 4, York College (New York) cross country and softball student-athlete Joviette Frederick noted how rewarding it was to be part of a movement to rebuild New Orleans.

“Out of this trip I take with me that although we can’t heal wounds overnight or even in five years, the people of New Orleans and Louisiana overall appreciate every effort given from others,” she said. “One day, I can point to that house and say I helped paint it or look at that tree and say I helped pot it long ago. I can also say we, the scholar-athletes of the City University of New York carried our bags to Louisiana with the intent to move people, and the people of Louisiana moved us.”

Read more about the Goodwill Tour on the CUNYAC website.