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Fourteen SUNY Potsdam Students Headed to Texas to Help with Hurricane Recovery

March 7, 2019

SUNY Impact Foundation Grant Provides Unique Spring Break Opportunity

As many students prepare to head home for spring break, a group of 14 SUNY Potsdam students will embark on a volunteer service trip to Houston, Texas from March 9 to 17 where they will be volunteering for All Hands and Hearts—an organization that helps communities rebuild after natural disasters.

A $24,000 grant from the SUNY Impact Foundation is paving the way for the trip. Twelve students from the Educational Opportunity Program and two from TRIO, both programs which help to support low-income or first-generation college students, will make the trip to Houston, Texas next week. The students will be mucking and gutting homes throughout the city as part of the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. Despite the fact that the hurricane hit Texas in August of 2017, the intense flooding wreaked havoc in the city and cleanup efforts are ongoing.

The students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, will work long days at residents’ homes throughout Houston to remove debris and help to revitalize the community. The group of 14 SUNY Potsdam students includes:

  • David Charles ’22 of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Davidson Charles ’22 of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Josephin Colon Ricardo '22 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Nadya Diaz ’21 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Angelin Hernandez ’20 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Fatouma Kone ’20 of Manhattan, N.Y.
  • Stanley Martinez ’19 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Charina Medina ’19 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Garcia Oscar ’20 of Cambria Heights, N.Y.
  • Waldy Perez ’20 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Christodia Quayson ’21 of Bronx, N.Y.
  • Nicole Sanchez ’20 of Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Makansira Sacko ’21 of Manhattan, N.Y.
  • Wendy Zavala Palacios ’20 of Bronx, N.Y.

"For my last semester at SUNY Potsdam, I wanted to leave with the feeling of fulfillment. Once I heard that EOP was offering a great opportunity to volunteer and help out the community of Houston, I jumped at the chance to be a part of the experience. I truly love being able to show others what SUNY Potsdam has to offer," said Stanley Martinez ’19, a senior at SUNY Potsdam.

 LaVack first learned about All Hands and Hearts when she led a service trip to Puerto Rico for hurricane recovery efforts in the summer of 2018. “This will be a transformative experience for a cohort of students that has so much to give. We know this will be an engaging applied learning opportunity where students can embrace the importance of community service,” said Krista LaVack, director of International Education & Programs at SUNY Potsdam.

She will be leading the trip with Sabel Bong, director of the Educational Opportunity Program. “As a child born in a refugee camp in Thailand and a son of refugee parents, it was extremely important for me to understand identity. When my parents afforded me an opportunity to travel abroad to visit Southeast Asia, where I was born—my life was forever transformed,” said Bong. “I want to give that same opportunity to these students in the Educational Opportunity Program and TRIO.  I want them to experience something so profound, like helping a community devastated by a natural disaster. This service-learning trip is a perfect opportunity to help them make real-world connections to their academic studies.”

Along with the SUNY Impact Foundation Grant, the trip is being funded by a $3,000 grant from SUNY Potsdam’s Lougheed Center for Applied Learning and a $1500 grant from Jerry ’68 and Carolyn Zwaga (Hon. ’68), donors to the Zwaga Study Abroad Endowment.

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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