10 years. 21 trips. 700+ participants.
These numbers represent countless hours of service rebuilding homes, reviving communities, and offering hope. This year, Mission: I’m Home (MIH) celebrated its 10th anniversary as the university’s only alternative break program on its March 2019 trip to New Orleans. Co-founded by Stevenson staff member Morgan Somerville ’14M and faculty members Art Fifer and Romas Laskauskas, MIH launched its first trip in 2009 and now runs four trips each year to a variety of locations that have been severely impacted by extreme storm events, including Baton Rouge, La.; Staten Island, N.Y.; Monmouth County, N.J.; Houston, Texas; and the one that began it all— New Orleans.
This year, 10 alumni were proud to join students, faculty, staff, and friends of SU who worked on three homes, completing more than 1,000 hours of service. The dedicated group spent seven days living and working in communities that are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina, nearly 14 years after the Category 5 storm made landfall along the Gulf Coast. They worked on site with SBP (formerly St. Bernard Project), their community partner of 10 years. SBP is a national nonprofit organization focused on shrinking the time between disaster and recovery. Volunteers worked on Opportunity Housing, new builds or rebuilds that are sold to the public at a reduced price with affordable financing options to help revitalize the New Orleans Housing Market post-Katrina.
Away from the job site, there was time to explore exhibits and locations marking the historic storm’s impact, and each day concluded with meaningful reflections lead by both student leaders and alumni. Lighter-hearted fun was also to be had with ice-breakers, an exciting St. Patrick’s Day parade, and a traditional crawfish boil that concluded the week, at which Aaron Milam ’13 ’18M and Danny Sloan ’13 were recognized with Outstanding Alumni Awards for their dedication to fostering relationships with current and future students within the organization. SBP also recognized Somerville with the Louisiana Volunteer Service Award.
MIH resonates with our community as well, and many of you have made gifts to support this worthwhile program. Each year donations have increased, thanks to grassroots fundraising, with students, alumni, and other participants sharing their passion with friends and family. With your help, we are touching lives across the country and we are making a difference in the world.
We asked some of our alumni participants to share their thoughts: Matt Piluk ’17 ’19M, KJ Renfroe ’17 ’19M, and Danny Sloan ’13.
SU: What does Mission: I’m Home mean to you?
MP: MIH IS my Stevenson community. When I think back to my time as a student at Stevenson University, I first think of my experiences with the Mission: I’m Home organization and its members.
KR: Mission: I’m Home to me means family, togetherness, and support. This organization not only helps our community by volunteering, but we help each other grow, and ultimately become our best selves. Mission: I’m Home is simply the best thing that could ever happen to anyone.
DS: Mission: I’m Home to me is a chance for students, alumni, and faculty to be plunged into a world of compassion for others. There aren’t too many other instances in my life where I’ve been able to see first-hand, and make an impact on, the poverty and destruction that natural disasters cause. In many cases, we forget that once the chaos subsides, the lingering effects of a disaster are there for a decade to come. Yet the world seems only to rally behind the cause for so long. In short, it means compassion, family, love, and returning people to the places they call home. $77,395 raised to date 199 Gifts from Students and Alumni 84 Gifts from Sponsors
SU: How has your experience as alumni changed because of MIH?
MP: MIH has given me an opportunity to stay involved with the students of Stevenson University and see just how the university has grown from my time as a student.
KR: It’s changed my perspective when going on these trips. Before, my main goal was to help our communities and make new friends. Now my view of these trips is centered around my personal growth, helping those in our MIH family grow and learn through meaningful conversations, inspirational words and quotes, and inspiring through my actions. I saw MIH as a club, but now I see that it’s more than a club, it’s my family. MIH is what kept me involved with the Stevenson community.
DS: Without MIH, I wouldn’t be active as an alumnus at all, as much as I’d hate to admit it. I had a great four years at Stevenson, but without MIH I know I wouldn’t have the same bond with the students and faculty, both past and present. Because of MIH, I have a strong emotional attachment with the school, and in turn that makes me want to be as involved as possible in all things SU.
SU: What do you think underclassmen learn from alumni participants?
MP: Through alumni participation, underclassmen can see how a Stevenson University education impacts a person’s career path, and they are given an opportunity to develop a nontraditional mentormentee relationship.
KR: I think underclassmen learn why we continue to come back for our 7th, 8th, and 9th trips. They are able to experience the love we have for MIH as a club, for our community, and for each other. They’re able to learn life lessons, and gain tips that we could’ve used or that we were given when we were underclassmen. Overall, I think that they are able to see the passion we have for helping others.
DS: Underclassmen without a doubt have the greatest benefit from MIH. They are able to find out about this amazing club early and get involved throughout their time at SU. They’re able to come on these trips with 30-40 strangers and acquaintances, and come back to campus with 30-40 close friends—friends that will solidify their love for the university and their involvement on campus. They also learn so many skills while rebuilding, that I think it’s safe to say anyone who has been on an MIH trip could be hired as a contractor’s assistant tomorrow!
For more information about Mission: I’m Home, contact Morgan Somerville, Director of Student Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-352-4445. If you would like to make a gift, visit stevenson.edu/givingtomission.