GSW students volunteer in tornado-ridden Kentucky on Spring Break

Published 1:34 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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By Chelsea Collins

AMERICUS – Three different student groups from Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) spent their Spring Break volunteering in Mayfield and Ages, KY after an EF4 tornado ripped through their towns in 2021 traveling for 165 miles at one mile wide for three hours.

Seven members of the President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program (PCLP) travelled to Mayfield, KY where they partnered with Go Serv Global and helped rebuild homes. They had the opportunity to shingle and side a garage, do demo work, clean up debris left behind by the tornado, pour a concrete foundation, and get the front wall of a home up.

“It was a wonderful experience spending time with the residents of Mayfield, hearing eye-opening stories of their experience on and since that day, and learning about the work Go Serv Global has done,” said Mikela Barlow, PCLP program coordinator. “The students loved the experience, people of Mayfield and Go Serv Global so much we may be traveling back after this semester to serve again.”

A group of GSW PCLP students are seen here putting up a wall in a house that was severely damaged when a tornado ripped through the area in 2021.
Photo courtesy of GSW

PCLP members were Miranda Brannon, Tim Burke, Kayla Crisp, Alex Espitia, Savannah McKleroy, Shy’neshia Salter, Drea Singleton, Shaniah Tolbert and Program Coordinator Mikela Barlow.

Also volunteering in Mayfield on a study abroad trip was eight GSW nursing students and two faculty members. The students were able to get various experience in transcultural nursing where they volunteered at the Needline Food Bank, participated in a briefing from the Graves County Health Department and viewed the public health nursing system pre and post tornado. They also helped rebuild homes alongside the PCLP members.

“We truly don’t know what it’s like to lose everything you’ve ever owned and even people you love in a matter of seconds,” said Carly Hearn, a 2nd semester nursing student, “but after talking and speaking to people of the town we know they are slowly rebuilding to be bigger and better – never losing sight of their faith and love for their hometown and community. It was a true honor to be a part of just a speck of the progress to help rebuild and recover from such a disaster. This community is still truly hurting, but the key is they aren’t giving up. Thank you for all the people including faculty and staff that made this trip possible for us and for such a wonderful and hardworking group. We couldn’t have asked for a better or more rewarding experience and such a welcoming community.”

The nursing students and faculty held two fundraisers, a ‘Soup’er Bowl and a quilt raffle, leading up to their trip to help offset the cost and raised over $3,000.

Nursing students were Miranda Brannon, Carly Hearn, Quincy Mayer, Serenity Patterson, Kassandra Prusko, Calvin Schramm, Shannon Stevens, Megan Strickland, and nursing faculty were Rhonda Slocumb and Natasha Snider.

A group of GSW BCM students are in Kentucky with other GSW students helping to build and restored communities destroyed by an EF4 tornado that ripped through the area in 2021.
Photo courtesy of GSW

Eight students in GSW’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) travelled to the small community of Ages, KY where they partnered with the Upper Cumberland Baptist Association to help rebuild a church that had dissipated during the pandemic. They knocked on doors informing people of the church’s reopening, prayed for and with people and shared the Gospel. The team also helped lead the Sunday morning service and worship.

“I really enjoyed getting to serve in Ages, Kentucky with BCM over Spring Break,” said Jackson Carlstrom, a senior computer science major. “This was my first mission trip outside of my community, so it was a huge opportunity for me. I enjoyed and got a lot out of the door-to-door outreach we did, as it was my first time ever doing anything like that. I loved getting to spend more time and fellowship with everyone else on the trip and getting to know them better.”

BCM students were Heidi Anderson, Jackson Carlstrom, Elizabeth Hair, Eliza Hill, Christy Johnson, Trent Mays, Joseph Park, Kasie Ream and Campus Minister Adam Shutters.