For some new Clark students, first stop is helping rebuild in Biloxi

Clark University Trek students

Clark students work on home restoration in Biloxi, Mississippi.

For nearly a decade, several of Clark University’s incoming students have taken the opportunity to begin their Clark college careers a little early – and away from campus.

This summer, nine incoming students, two student mentors and a Clark administrator traveled to Biloxi to work with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, from Aug. 12 to 21. They joined a volunteer service project helping to construct homes in Biloxi, where communities are still struggling with the damage done by Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.

The student’s trip is part of the annual Clark TREK program, which takes place each year the week before Clark's on-campus orientation.

“I have been the staff leader for Clark Trek Restoration for the past five years and it is an amazing opportunity to be a part of this transformative experience for incoming Clark students,” said Theresa L. Malone, Director of Admissions. “Also, with a multi-year perspective, I am able to see the progress that is being made in the recovery of the Gulf Coast region and help students appreciate how the work we do in a week adds to that long but slow recovery effort.”

To view photos of the Clark team  in Biloxi, visit https://www.facebook.com/HFHMGC.

The Clark students were among thousands of others from around the country who have worked “hands-on” to help address the housing crisis in Biloxi and beyond through the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge. Each year, thousands of college students visit one of 200 HFH affiliates to spend one week working in partnership with the local community and partner families to build homes for families in need.

“Though the week is short, the transformation is monumental.” ~ Taylor Bearden '14.

Students who worked with HFH of the Mississippi Gulf Coast stayed at a local volunteer camp, where they received meals and housing.

“I think TREK is important because it helps to build a backbone for the entire college career,” said Taylor Bearden ’14, a student Trek leader who is majoring in geography. “We are given the opportunity to build relationships on the basis of mutual learning, service, and collective process. Those qualities forge very important relationships and equally benefit all people. This is not just about the first years, or about the people who Habitat helps, but it is about the dynamic that is forged early and that will last through Clark and for years to come.”

“Though the week is short, the transformation is monumental,” Bearden added. “I know I can speak for every one of us when I say we would have all stayed with a smile to see the project through. The hardest part is knowing that we only helped so much, and not more. I am so proud and so honored to have been a part of the trip. Each step of the way was a tremendous demonstration in generosity and perseverance.”

Clark also offers an Outward Bound expedition as part of the Clark Trek pre-orientation program. This year, several traveled to the Outward Bound base camp in Newry, Maine.

Participation in Clark TREK program is optional, and each program requires an additional fee.

For more information about the Clark Trek program, contact Jason Zelesky, Associate Dean of Students and Wellness Outreach Coordinator, jzelesky@clarku.edu.