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Honors Scholar Describes His Unforgettable Spring Break

In his own words, a UC student describes witnessing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, six months after the storm.

Date: 4/10/2006
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: UC Honors Scholars Program
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Jeremy Augenstein
Honors Scholar Jeremy Augenstein

Jeremy Augenstein, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering technology major from Lebanon, Ohio, used the skills he learned in class to offer service on spring break. Jeremy led one of the teams of the University of Cincinnati Honors Scholars who traveled to the Gulf Coast Region to assist families whose homes were devastated by hurricane Katrina. The McNicholas High School graduate was one of 40 academically talented UC students who spent his days gutting homes and his nights in a camp organized by FEMA and the National Relief Network, an organization that works to bring volunteers into state and federally declared disaster areas to begin to rebuild.

In the process, Jeremy made friends with Stephen Newland, a freshman finance major from Cincinnati. It was a friendship that began because both students were early risers. Jeremy kept a journal of the trip, and the Honors Scholars Program, led by Program Coordinator Debbie Brawn and Assistant Director and Academic Advisor Amberly Miller, kept a photographic record of the trip.

Damaged home

The following is from Jeremy’s account of the trip as the group entered mid-week:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wow, the routine that I have been going through for days has now come to an end. It seems like I have been working here for weeks, but on the other hand, I feel like I have not done enough. Today was a day full of ups, then downs and then ups again. The day started off just like every other day. Steve and I were the first men up in the tent. Steve and I went to the tent that was the dining hall to get a table that would be the gathering place for the majority of the UC group. We enjoyed breakfast with the people that got up before 8 a.m.

After breakfast, I went back to our tent, switched into my jeans and the National Relief Shirt that we were issued and went out to the bus. We had to be out there at 8:45 a.m. and I decided to go out early, in order to talk to my group and let them know how much fun we were going to have today. On the bus, I ended up sitting with Steve and we were talking about how we were getting a new house (to overhaul) today. We were both really excited.

Damaged house

After the short bus ride to the work site, my team got a new house, which we were completely excited about. The first task that my group did at the house was opening the house up, so we would be able to see and breathe inside. When doing this, I actually got injured.  I was taking out a window in the front of the house, and I got cut by a piece of glass and had to go to the local clinic. The cut was not as bad as it could have been, and I had to get some medical attention.  I could not believe how great the personnel were at the clinic. After getting fixed up, I went back to the work site.

Once I got back, I was told that I needed to go back to the camp, but I did not want to do that at all. So, I talked to my leader and got permission to stay at the worksite. I ended up helping my group on the outside and giving them all of the support that I could possibly give them. After that the day turned out for the good. We got to meet the home owner of the house that we were working on. She was the nicest person I have ever met. She was an elderly woman, who could not stop thanking us for what we were doing for her. This made me want to help out as much as I could and to give my team the support they needed in order to give the chance for her to start over again. It was neat to see all of the valuables that we were able to get out of the house for her.  Everyone that drove by was so nice and thanked us for everything that we were doing. After the work day came to an end, we took a picture in front of the house that we are going to send to her. Finally, we got back on the bus and headed back to camp.

When we got back to camp, we had to do our normal routine of going straight to the showers and wash off before we could go and eat. Once again, Steve and I ended up waiting for each other to go to dinner. When we went to dinner, we started a table and a majority of the UC students ate together and discussed the day that we had.

Honors Scholars
UC Honors Scholars

After dinner, we had to meet as a group at seven o’clock and discuss the experience that we had. This meeting was where I realized many aspects of the trip that were important to me. First of all, after my injury today, I realized how much I wanted to work when I was not able to work. Second, I realized how much more I want to work and complete that house after meeting and visiting with the home owner. Third, I realized the reason why Debbie and Amberly wanted me to be a leader was because I had been there to support my team when I was unable to help out and for the first time when being in a leadership position, the people actually valued me and asked my opinion. I had never had this before. 

Finally, the last aspect of the trip that I realized was how important my grandfather and uncle are to me in my life and the success that I had in New Orleans. My grandfather and Uncle Steve taught me everything about construction and rebuilding of homes and buildings. This was the reason I wanted to help with the hurricane relief effort, and be successful at sharing my skills and talents with those who needed it the most. They also are the reason why I have the leadership skills that I do, because they are the true leaders in my life. This meeting concluded my day. I went back to camp to bed to get my rest for the next day. 

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