High School Students Do Their Part to Help New Orleans


(Wednesday, February 14, 2007 9:58 AM EST)

When given the choice between a week of hard physical labor or a ski vacation, most high school students would opt for the latter, but not the boys varsity basketball team at the Wakefield School in The Plains.

Instead of joining their classmates on ski trips at the end of January, they chose to travel to New Orleans and help rebuild the lives of its residents.

“It was questionable, at first, if it was worth giving up ski week, but after the first day I knew,” said senior Aaron Phipps, a guard for the team. “I'd seen the flood on television, but had never seen anything like that in real life. I was surprised it was still like that, after more than a year.”

Nine of the 10 players, along with coach Scott Barron, assistant coaches and managers, traveled to New Orleans at their own expense ($500 per player). They stayed at the Trinity Christian Community Center for the four-day trip.

Each day started at 6:45 a.m. with breakfast, followed by basketball practice at Tulane University. After lunch, the team would spray for mold and do demolition work in homes for people identified by AmeriCorps.

“The work was fun,” said junior point guard Ross Ozburn. “After practices, going to work was what we looked forward to.”

Although the team had a good chemistry to begin with, the players really came together during the trip, both on the court and on the job. They also bonded with the locals they were helping. At one point, members of the team played football with kids from the neighborhood where they were doing work.

“We got to bond closer together and become a family-like team,” said freshman guard/forward Eric Wilson. “It was a good experience for us.”

And it was as a team that all the players realized the gravity of the situation in New Orleans. Driving through the Ninth Ward moved all of them, and helped them realize how lucky they are.

“We had a really bad practice that day, and we were all angry with each other, but when we went over a bridge and then over the hill to the Ninth Ward, we were all silent,” Phipps said. “We realized that practice was not a big deal.”

“It was a lifetime experience,” said senior Kevin Tedeschi, one of the team's point guards. “It opened my eyes to things I didn't know.”

This is the first year the team made a trip of this nature, and because of its success, there are plans for a similar trip in the future.

“This is something more meaningful than ski week,” Barron said. “People keep asking around school to make it an annual thing. It's nice to see that we touched something in the kids.”

Wakefield School students participated in a program to help rebuild New Orleans during their winter break.
(Photo by Arlene Vandermast)

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