Richard Stockton College student Shannon O’Mara knows first-hand the impact of Hurricane Sandy on area marinas. Her father’s business, Capt. Mike’s in Tuckerton, sustained major damage during the storm.
O’Mara is documenting the impact of the storm on Capt. Mike’s and Rand’s marinas as a project for her anthropology class in field methods taught by professor Joseph Rubenstein. She presented her project to the class last week, outlining the history of the area and showing before and after photos and maps.
“They are rebuilding because they have no other choice,” she said.
There are many lessons to be learned from Hurricane Sandy. Stockton officials are developing classes and campus-wide projects to teach them. The goal is education and community service that gives students an active role in the recovery process.
For more than 20 years, Stockton’s Coastal Research Center has addressed environmental issues at the shore, with students benefiting from and even participating in that research. The college’s Community Engagement project is now expanding those efforts to post-Sandy recovery Service Learning projects.
On Wednesday students in the Events Planning and Catering Management course hosted a five-course dinner and auction to raise funds for Sandy victims. Professor Michael Scales said the project begins the first day of class as students choose a theme, develop a menu, calculate costs, develop table settings and decorations, and solicit items to auction. This year’s Boardwalk theme includes mini-corn dogs, crab salad and waffles with ice cream.
“Students reflect on their community as they give back with knowledge and hard work,” Scales said.
Dee McNeely-Greene, associate vice president for student affairs, has been recruiting Stockton students to volunteer, and also arranging housing for volunteer workers through the summer. As part of the Atlantic County Long-Term Recovery Group the college will host training Saturday for an Atlantic County damage needs assessment that will send volunteers to every residence. In May the college is expected to host at least some of 150 Habitat for Humanity workers coming in to help rebuild homes.
Student Morgan Truncale, 22, of Sicklerville, Camden County, is working with Habitat for Humanity and typically spends three or four days a week taking applications, mostly in the Brigantine and Ventnor areas.
“Once you get out there and talk to people, you feel like you just have to help,” she said. “Some people still are afraid to ask or don’t think they need help. Some don’t speak English.”
Rubenstein has made Sandy the theme for his Field Work and Community Partnerships classes. Many students have personal connections to their projects, which cover a wide range of topics.
Heather Swenson used to live in the South End of Ocean City and is doing her project on an extended family who lives there and how the storm has affected their lives. Steve Biebel is focusing on a bay area street in Ventnor; Kelly Bertonazzi is writing about the experiences of the elderly in Longport; Kim Cruz is following the small community of Holgate; and Chelsea Schade is comparing resources and support in two different communities, Lavallette and Union Beach.
In the Community Partnerships class students have been volunteering with agencies working on the recovery effort. Those interviewed all said they have learned the importance of organization.
“It was really eye-opening to see how people came together,” said social work major Sirena Brown, of Manahawkin, who has been shadowing Atlantic County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Ed Conover.
Scott Fisher, of Ocean City, a sociology major, works at the United Way office preparing packets of information for out-of-town volunteers.
“There’s a lot more that goes into this than just helping,” he said. “You really need organization. When people donate stuff, there has to be a plan for where it is going to go and how it is going to get there.”
Reva Curry, executive director of the Stockton Center for Community Engagement, said they have also incorporated some existing programs into Sandy recovery efforts. The college is a partner in the Campus Kitchen project at Atlantic City High School, which provides dinners to families living in motels who may not have access to hot meals. Curry said they missed just one week during the storm, and after one motel was closed because of damage they expanded to another where people were staying.
Curry said the storm also affected staff and students at the college, many of whom are also still struggling. She said it is just part of the mission of Stockton to help in the community.
“This is neighbor helping neighbor,” she said. “And it is also a reminder that the recovery will be long term,even years.”
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