Clarion University — Venango's CU Serve club traveled to New Orleans during spring break to explore the culture and history of one of the most unique cities in America, and to complete service projects at the Los Islenos Fiesta in St. Bernard Parish and ARC of Greater New Orleans.
Participants included group leaders Casey McVay (CU Serve advisor/assistant director of admissions, of Franklin, Pa.), Catelynn Fleming (Student Activities & Residence Life coordinator, of Oil City, Pa.), and Jenna Paratore (community member, of Oil City, Pa.), and 11 students: Alexa Chaikowsky (of Bethlehem, Pa.), Erica Cornell (of Oil City, Pa.), Kinsey Green (of Chicora, Pa.), Brianna Higgins (of Eldred, Pa.), Trelyn Nelson (of Meadville, Pa.), Aaron Ritsig (of Emlenton, Pa.), Andrew Ritsig (CU Serve secretary/treasurer, of Emlenton, PA), Alex Vaughn (of Eldred, PA), Saira Walker (of Altoona, PA), Jocelyn Whitman (CU Serve President, of Franklin, Pa.), and Lauren Yeager (of Bellefonte, Pa.).
The group toured the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where Marie Laveau (the voodoo queen), Dutch Morial (NOLA's first African-American mayor), Homer Plessy (the plaintiff in the landmark civil-rights case Plessy v. Ferguson_, and Benjamin Latrobe (the architect of the U.S. Capitol), are buried.
Additionally, CU Serve toured the French Quarter to learn about the pharmacy where Louis J. Dufliho, Jr., America's first licensed pharmacist, worked and made many significant contributions to the field. They saw the location of the first coven of witches, as well as the home of Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, a socialite and serial killer, as well as the home next door where American Horror Story: Coven was filmed. Their guide shared many stories of folklore and true stories providing a backdrop for the city and how it came to be what it is today.
For service, they assisted the hard-working crew at Los Islenos Fiesta set up for a large festival serving over 10,000 people. The club cut fruit, meat, potatoes and more to prepare special food offerings for the event from the Islenos culture including sangria and caldo, a beef stew. They helped organized booths, food serving items, and much more. The best part of their service there was their interactions with the last living vestige of Islenos ancestors, who arrived in Louisiana during 1778 and continued to arrive in the province until 1783 to settle strategically around New Orleans to guard the city. Students were able to hear an archaic Spanish dialect, still spoken there today, and stories of how they have preserved to a large extent, their distinct cultural identity. Learn more at http://www.losislenos.org/.
CU Serve also went back to serve at Arc of Greater New Orleans, an organization that works to secure for all people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to develop, function, and live to their fullest potential. They provide a variety of services to individuals of all ages, including parent assistance, post-secondary education exploration, life and job coaching, day activities, and personal care. CU Serve worked beside the ARC crew to sort thousands of pounds of Mardi Gras beads and trinkets for recycling. You can even purchase beads on their website: https://www.arcgnobeads.org/. Arc receives donations of beads and throws from area residents that are then sorted, packaged and sold to float riders in 30-pound crawfish sacks. The Mardi Gras Recycling Center made a fun and festive volunteer outing for CU Serve. Learn more about ArcGNO at https://arcgno.org/.