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Quaker Valley students to help build New Orleans home

March 31, 2018 GMT

Thirty Quaker Valley High School students will spend their spring break helping to rebuild hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, nearly 13 years after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the area, destroying homes and lives.

As the area continues to rebuild more than a decade later, students from Quaker Valley will travel to the Big Easy from March 22 to 27 to volunteer with nonprofit Habitat for Humanity.

Led by math teacher Jeffrey Sebastian, with Superintendent Heidi Ondek and Director of Administrative Services Joseph Marrone on board, the students will spend two days helping to build a home in New Orleans.

“If I could show them or give them that sense of cultural appreciation or pride in knowing they helped someone, that’s what I’m hoping for,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian, who is in his 25th year of teaching, has participated in 10 Quaker Valley Spanish Club trips to countries including Peru, Cuba and Costa Rica. Last year was the final year for those trips, as the teacher leading them has a growing family and is needed at home.

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“I thought, ‘There’s no reason for me to stop…. How can I do something domestically that would give these kids some of those same dispositions they were getting from those trips,’ ” he said.

As a non-Spanish speaking person, Sebastian sought trips in the United States that would teach students skills like good communication, an appreciation for diversity, teamwork, collaboration and empathy.

“These are all the other things you want the kids to walk away from here with that is not necessarily in the curriculum,” Sebastian said.

The trip cost students under $2,000 each, much less than the international trips, and was open to any student in the high school. Financial assistance also was available for those who needed it.

Within four days of advertising the trip, all of the spots were filled.

Also during the six-day, five-night trip, students will tour New Orleans’ World War II and art museums, listen to jazz music on a dinner cruise and take a multicultural cooking class.

“I wanted it to be a real service learning heavy trip,” Sebastian said.

Students will return home in time for Easter weekend.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.