Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 20, 2006

Project Serve Mississippi Wins Innovation Award

A University of Guelph initiative that involved students spending Reading Week helping communities ravaged by hurricane Katrina has earned a national award.

Project Serve Mississippi was honoured today with a 2006 Innovation Award from the Student Affairs and Services Association (SASA), a division of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services.

“I was really quite surprised by the honour,” said Christine Victorino, co-ordinator of citizenship and community engagement in Student Life, who spearheaded the Mississippi project.

Forty-one U of G students and two staff members travelled by bus to Hattiesburg, Miss., in February. There they partnered with students from the University of Southern Mississippi to help with hurricane relief efforts. They also explored themes related to Black History Month, the civil rights movement and education.

“The trip had a huge impact on the students, especially seeing the devastation of a natural disaster so close up,” said Victorino. “Everyone felt good about being able to offer some level of support.”

Indeed, Kira Kumagai, a third-year arts and science student, called Project Serve Mississippi “one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. It has affected me as a student and as a global citizen.”

Student and team leader Hava Goldberg agreed. “Project Serve Mississippi is an experience that will always stick out in my mind. Not only were we given the opportunity to reach out to people in need, but we were also entrusted with the responsibility of bearing witness and telling others about what we experienced. It truly opened my eyes and allowed me to learn so many lessons that simply cannot be taught in the classroom.”

Both students said they’re pleased and proud to hear of the SASA award. “It makes me feel so satisfied to know that all the hard work put into this by the Guelph staff and students, as well as our counterparts at the University of Southern Mississippi, is being recognized and commended,” said Goldberg.

Kumagai added that the award highlights “the incredible involvement resources available to U of G students. The next step is finding ways to make more students realize how significant these experiences really are and to make more of these programs available to them.”

The Mississippi project also received national media attention. Global TV did a feature story about the Guelph students before they left and then met up with them in Mississippi.

The initiative was part of Project Serve Canada, an alternative Reading Week program co-ordinated by the citizenship education program in Student Life. Other U of G students spent the week working with homeless and at-risk youth in Calgary and Guelph and learning about native life in Pikangikum, Ont.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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