Penn State students take a group photo with local residents from Beaumont Texas.

Penn State students Aid Help in Hurricane Harvey Relief

Penn State students join together to help those affected by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey

Penn State students from around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave up their Spring Break to opt for an Alternative Spring Break assisting in the Hurricane Harvey relief. Penn State Greater Allegheny (PSUGA) was one of the participating campuses.

Upon arriving in Beaumont, TX our students were presented with damaged homes, devastation among families and those who haven’t received aid.  “We were mucking houses and removing dirt, debris amongst other things,” said Tony Gomez, Admissions Counselor at PSUGA.  “They were living in this home the entire time; no security, the only thing they had was a deadbolt; the back door was blown off.”

Over a period of five days, they assisted with a local food bank, connected with the local community and helped in the reconstruction of a new start for well-deserving families.

One family our students assisted, Mrs. Jackie, lost her home to the destruction of Hurricane Harvey and explained the difficulties of having her life altered by this tragedy.  “She was telling us how she was looking for a new home and she was staying with her mother in a trailer and how it was really rough,” said Ronni Corbett a student at PSUGA.  “And that touched my heart a lot.” 

Low-income neighborhoods in Beaumont appeared to be the most in need of urgent care and resources to assist those suffering from lack of aid and help.  “Your wealthy areas were okay,” said Gomez.  “Poor racially diverse neighborhoods had 5 feet or more of flooding to them.” 

Christina Rivera, a student from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) attended the trip. “You cannot fathom how impacting it is to see that for over seven months it still looks like the day after the hurricane hit.”

Continued work rummaging through the memories within the family homes, seeing memories fade was heartbreaking.  'With the flood, the water washed out all the colors and images and all these memories people have collected over the years were just gone," stated Rivera.

While being a difficult ordeal, everyone came together every night to discuss and ponder what they had experienced each day. "You see your students developing and implementing leadership skills. You see them develop empathy for other human beings,” stated Gomez.

Students from Penn State had turned themselves into heroes as they took time out of their lives to help those affected and suffering from Hurricane Harvey.  “Honestly, it was the best experience ever and I would definitely recommend it to everyone,” stated Corbett.  “It was great for my growth and it made a difference and that is the best feeling in the world to me.” 

It wasn’t all work for these students.  Alternative Break-goers had the opportunity to visit the Space Center Houston (NASA), a petting Zoo and the Houston Rodeo.  "We got to feed the animals," stated Corbett.

At the end of the day, each student said they would do it all over again.  "I would 100% recommend this experience to anyone," said Rivera.  "I am looking to find ways in which I can help those in Puerto Rico this summer and I really do look forward to these experiences."