Fourteen Alfred State Building Trades  students have been recognized by the City Council of the City of New Orleans for work they performed this fall as part of the 12-week “Semester in the South” project-based learning/civic engagement experience.
The Rev. William H. Terry, M.Div., M.P.S. of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans made the acknowledgement on behalf of the Council, presenting Building Trades Associate Professor Norm Ellis with a plaque and city commendation. The students worked closely with Rev. Terry on the renovation of the Marsaudet-Dodwell House, a cherished historic mansion built in 1846.
Once used as a community center, the Dodwell House was damaged by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 and has not been used since. Previously, it served at-risk children from the 7th Ward and old historic Tremé neighborhoods located near the French Quarter. When the House reopens it will be used again as the community’s only center for at-risk children and marginalized populations and will become a community center for learning and the arts.
“The value of the skilled craftsmanship that these students provided is estimated to be well over $250,000,” said site supervisor Mike McDonald. “These students are artisan craftsmen and they have catapulted this major renovation ahead by at least two years. We could never have imagined this amount of work being done so fast and so professionally. Their efforts are a real gift to this project and historic site.”
To Rev. William H. Terry, however, the work students did at the Dodwell House “…translates into lives saved.”
Noting the extreme poverty level in the area, Rev. Terry said, “these students are heroes to us all and especially to the children that they have made a place for….they have helped this city renew, rebuild, and restore and we, the people of New Orleans, St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, the children of the Tremé, and others remain eternally grateful.”
The Tremé area has roughly 20,000 residents, of which 38 percent live at or below the poverty level. Violent crime there is 20% higher than the rest of the city which has made the neighborhood synonymous with violence and the namesake of a new HBO drama series. Rev. Terry’s church is located in Tremé and was recognized recently by CNN and the National Episcopal Church for its work against murder with its infamous “Murder Board” that is mounted on the side of the church.
Prior to their work at the Dodwell House, the students worked for six weeks building homes for Habitat for Humanity in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is the third year that Alfred State students have journeyed to the south to apply their knowledge, gain valuable hands-on learning, while making a significant difference in struggling communities still damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the largest urban disaster in U.S. history, which occurred back in 2005.
First row from left, Building Trades instructor Norm Ellis, Jake Paqufette of Williamson. Second row, Noah O’kussick of Kent, Steve Pisanzio of Penfiled, Kyle Gutzmer of Webster. Third row, John Lafosse of Akron, Keith Poliey of Greenwood Lake, Mark Pendleton of Beacon. Back row, Seth Preston of Angelica, Andrew La Porte of Ilion, Nick Congdon of Dunkirk, Sean Richardson of Silver Creek, Noah Bishop of LaFayette, Bob Lounsberry of Almond, and Dave Pierce of Olean.