Framing and Deepening the Hurricane Sandy Response

By Genéa Stewart, Director of Service-Learning With the start of the new semester, service-learning practitioners across New York and New Jersey have a distinct opportunity to leverage the matchless teachable moment created by Hurricane Sandy for social change. But how exactly? When? What factors should educators and advocates consider in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? How should we talk with our students?

I am curious about how service-learning professionals and practitioners across the NYC and NJ region are handling the disaster and the slow return to normalcy. How are we framing Hurricane Sandy in a service-learning context?

Sandy as a Catalyst The range of issues our country must grapple with is almost overwhelming, but the crisis of Sandy still serves as a catalyst to engage students in in-depth discussions on everything from the appropriate role of government, public resources, and infrastructure planning and development to scientists' growing concern about climate change and disaster preparedness. In light of the urgency of the lasting crisis, how do we reconcile the bureaucracy of higher education timetables with the real-time needs of next-door neighbors and citizens, and expedite services? How do we make use of large-scale student resources and labor while remaining mindful of the students and staff who have been personally affected by the storm? How do we balance the need for urgent action against the need for sustainability and equitable support over time? After all, as it is clear, this devastation will be felt in our communities for quite some time as families continue to work to find clothing, food, housing and ultimately, regain a sense of safety.

This coming spring, the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service, in conjunction with the New York Campus Compact, and members of the New York Metro Area Partnership for Service-Learning (NYMAPS), will convene for its 5th Annual Symposium on Friday, April 12 from noon to 5 p.m. The event, which will take place at Barnard College,  will serve as an opportunity to examine these considerations and to come up with institutional strategies to mitigate future disasters. In the meantime, for more information, tools and resources on this subject, or just to join the conversation, please visit the NYMAPS website's Sandy Relief page.

Adapted from the following blog post: Stewart, Genea. “Implications of Hurricane Sandy on NYC Service-Learning Projects”, Blog entry. www.nymaps.org 6 Nov. 2012.Web.

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