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Students Prepare for Service Learning Trip to Hurricane-Ridden Houston

22 students will be taking time out of their Christmas vacation to help residents in need

Flooding in Houston, TX, following Hurricane Harvey

In late August, Houston residents experienced massive flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey, which damaged thousands of homes. As part of a service learning program, a group from Sacred Heart University will travel to Houston and the surrounding areas in January to help in the recovery effort. They will help rebuild homes, clean up and provide assistance to those affected. SHU is currently the only school in New England that is heading to Houston to assist in this effort.

Scheduled for January 6-13, the service learning program will take place during the students’ Christmas vacation. But that won’t stop 17 students and three faculty members from taking the week out to help.

Many of the students have gone on previous service trips to Lucedale, Mississippi. SHU has been sending a group to Lucedale to work on homes every year since they were hit by Hurricane Katrina. This year, the leaders of the trip agreed that their efforts were needed in the Houston recovery. Sean Whelan, one of three student leaders on this trip together with Logan Cook and Cassie Simonides, said, “Lucedale holds a special place in my heart, and it’s a bit nerve-wracking to leave this familiar place and quite literally step into unknown territory. But I’m also very excited that we get this opportunity to help.”

Whelan has also done previous service work in Bridgeport, Arkansas, Virginia and Iowa. He said, “The reason I do service work is because of an ideal that I like to live by. In all honesty, one week of Sacred Heart students working on houses isn’t going to fix all the devastation done by the hurricane. There is so much in this world I can’t change. But that makes it all the more important to change everything I can. To humbly brag, our volunteering students are more than up to the challenge. They consistently amaze me with the amount of work they get done at every service site.”

A previous service trip volunteer, Brendan Capuano, said that it’s all about the people in need: “For us at Sacred Heart, it’s not about where we go or the work we do,” he said. “Service at SHU is about the people we serve. We listen, we empathize, and we do whatever we can to help those in need. In doing that we change ourselves and bring that change back to our community here at Sacred Heart.”

The Director of the Office of Volunteer Programs & Service LearningKarreem Mebane, who will also be in attendance, said of this program, “Students will learn why this is important work. We are in a lucky position to be at Sacred Heart. There are certain responsibilities we have that fall in line with the mission of the University to serve the greater community.”

Preceding the trip is a preparation period that involves logistical issues of traveling to Houston, Port Arthur, and Beaumont, as well as strategic fundraising. Each student is fundraising to defray the cost of the trip, going around to churches and stores and asking for donations. Any donation or contribution they receive is a huge help.

Mebane said, “I’m most looking forward to working with some of the best and brightest students on our campus and seeing how they lead.”

For more information or to donate, please contact Karreem Mebane at