Students Immerse in New York City Clean-up Efforts, Cultural Experiences

Ten NWU students spent part of their spring break assisting with Superstorm Sandy clean-up efforts.
The students cleaned debris from two homes in low-income neighborhoods.
The Superstorm Sandy clean-up was one of many cultural experiences that students participated in.

It wasn’t your typical spring break trip. No flip-flops, sunglasses, and sunscreen were packed in these students’ bags. Instead, they opted for facemasks, safety glasses, and heavy-duty gloves to protect them from the mold, mildew, and debris left behind from Superstorm Sandy.

“Not once did I hear someone complain,” said Nebraska Wesleyan University sophomore Maddie Monohan, who joined nine other students on a spring break cultural immersion trip to New York. “Everyone was smiling and laughing, and I feel in just that one day, I got closer to those girls.”

The goal of the New York Urban Cultural Immersion Trip was to demonstrate understanding, respect, appreciation and acceptance for cultural diversity.

Junior Jordyn Pfeiffer spent most of the academic year collaborating with Candice Howell, director of multicultural programs and services, in finding a variety of unfamiliar New York experiences.

Over six days, students attended a Baptist church service in Harlem, toured the melting pot of the Lower East Side, explored Chinatown, enjoyed Broadway theatre, visited cultural museums, and assisted with Superstorm Sandy relief efforts.

They experienced a variety of cultures: the African American culture in Harlem, Chinatown and other Asian ethnicities, Little Italy, and Islamic and Middle-Eastern culture within the city. Each day culminated with group discussion and reflection.

“I loved seeing how we grew as a group and as individuals with each day’s experiences,” said Pfeiffer. “Reflection is vital in circumstances such as these because it allows people to express their thoughts and feelings about what they were exposed to, as well as analyze why these observations are significant. No two people think alike and perspective is a powerful tool for learning.”

Near the end of their trip, students joined with Interoccupy of New York City and spent a day assisting with Superstorm Sandy relief efforts. Their work focused on a small low-income neighborhood.


“We were told to remove debris that got flushed in from the water and also from when the inside of the house got demolished due to mold,” said Monohan. “We ended up going through two rolls of garbage bags and we cleaned two houses in two and a half hours. That’s true teamwork.”


Monohan said the service project was her favorite New York experience.

Students simply could have taken in the traditional New York City tourist sites, said Pfeiffer, but she was pleased to have avoided that route.

“Anyone can visit New York City and see the tourist attractions, but opportunities like this, to see it on the deeper level of cultural specificity is unique,” she said. “I am ecstatic that I received the chance to experience New York City on this level and I can't wait to share my stories with everyone around me.”

Have you participated in volunteer work recently? In honor of our 125th anniversary, Nebraska Wesleyan students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends of the university are participating in a 12,500 Hour Service Challenge.

Collectively we have served 10,740 hours. Help us reach our goal by logging your service hours.