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Students mobilize to aid Katrina survivors

By : Dania Zalen

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has inspired a number of student groups to hold events and raise funds in support of the victims. In addition, one student group is providing an unusual gift: their expertise and their physical labor.

About 10 members of Engineers Without Borders will spend the first week of winter break assisting in Louisiana emergency animal shelters.

“I want to do all that I can to help out down there,” said Sarah Kelsen, 20, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engine-ering. “I think it makes a statement that college students are getting involved in bringing communities together.”

The Engineers Without Borders trip will likely include building animal shelters, bringing the animals food and giving them much-needed attention. A long-term goal is to establish connections that will lead to a second trip during spring break.

“I think it’s unusual,” said George Catalano, a professor of mechanical engineering who is also the group’s adviser. “They’re just a really compassionate group of students who saw a need and wanted to help.”

The group hopes to join Engineers Without Borders USA, a national organization that works on international projects. In the meantime, the local chapter will hold a fundraiser in November to support the Louisiana trip.

While the engineers may be the only student organization traveling to the Gulf Coast, other groups are also working to aid the relief efforts.

Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), along with the Red Cross Club and Habitat for Humanity, are selling $10 T-shirts with the words “ local celebrity” on the front and “Because I helped Hurricane Katrina Victims” on the back.

“The idea is that using your influence to help someone else makes you a celebrity as well,” said Bertrand Gervais, a senior political science major and vice president of SIFE. Since the launch of the fundraiser at the Sept. 23 Ludacris concert, the group has raised more than $5,000.

“We’re ordering more, and our goal is to sell 1,000 T-shirts,” said Julia Gallus, a history major and Red Cross Club member.

Contributions from area businesses helped to boost profits. Because the student organizations were able get the T-shirts for free, all of the proceeds are being donated to the relief efforts.

Student groups are finding other ways to help out, from bake sales to poker tournaments. And several groups — Kaskeset, Sinister Yu, Inner City Fire, Marty! and The Comeback Tour — per-formed in a benefit concert last weekend. “Kaskeset is happy to be doing what it can to help out the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said Eric Dinowitz, a political science and music major from the Bronx. “If singing can help people then we’re happy to do it.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08