By Kayla Daugherty
After seven years. residents in Mississippi are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. For the past three years, Veronica Riha has led a group of Madonna students down to the Gulf Coast to assist in cleanup.  
Students can sign up for BIO 4180 or COM 4180 in the spring and spend May 31 though June 5 in Mississippi. 
As a biology and health science instructor at Madonna, Riha found a way to incorporate service learning into her classes by servicing the Mississippi coast. Participants receive credit for two credit hours of biology, environmental sciences and general electives. Riha encourages students, especially science majors to make the trip because of the hands-on learning.
“They are going to get experience of field work, what kind of research is taking place in the science world,” said Riha. “Also they get to witness the impact of the oil spill two years ago and Katrina seven years ago.”
Environmental science major, Laura Haldane participated last year as a freshman and thoroughly enjoyed herself. 
“I gained more confidence in myself and it was an amazing lifetime experience,” said Haldane. “It was one of the highlights of my freshman year. I also gained an appreciation for what I have; the people of the Gulf Coast taught me that you cannot take anything for granted.”
Last year students worked mainly with the effects of the flooding, building water bars to prevent soil erosion. Additionally, the group re-mulched a nature trail that Madonna students built the first year the school became involved in the Mississippi cleanup. Students also got to travel to neighboring cities, such as New Orleans.
“We dissected sharks and saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and how it was still causing problems several years after it hit land. We got to see the lab's specimen library and their aquaculture (fish farming) facilities,” said Haldane. “We also went to Mammoth Caves on the trip down, which was amazing.”
Riha plans to incorporate service-learning through Madonna, in Mississippi, as long as there is work to be done. Those joining Riha will be keeping a journal and writing a reflective paper upon return to Michigan.
The residents of the Gulf coast, not only in Louisiana, but also Mississippi, are discovering new remains and items left from the destructive path of the hurricane.
“I received an email from a man down there,” said Riha. “He had found an American flag all folded up, lying on the ground. Perhaps somebody had died, or someone was infected. It just throws you for loop. You just think, wow this was something that was really important to somebody, and here it is, just laying here in the mud.”
The trip is a whirlwind adventure with volunteers flying down Thursday, May 31, and returning to Michigan the following Tuesday.
Haldane cannot wait to go again this year, and encourages other students to take part in the trip.
“I am most definitely going again. It is still months away and I can barely contain my excitement for the trip!” said Haldane, “You get to meet new people, do some service, enjoy the summer weather, and get away from Michigan for a while.”  
Likewise, Riha urges other to join the Madonna group participating.
“You are gonna work your tail off but it will be a lot of fun,” said Riha. mailto:kdaugherty@my.madonna.eduMississippi_trip_files/News%20MLK%20day.docxshapeimage_1_link_0


Environmental Advocacy course includes week in Mississippi