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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Students experience Louisiana culture, community during Bobcat Break

Exercise+and+sports+science+sophomore+Zoe+Cruz+puts+up+bookshelves+during+Bobcat+Break+Tuesday%2C+March+15%2C+2022%2C+in+Nunez+Community+College+Library.

Exercise and sports science sophomore Zoe Cruz puts up bookshelves during Bobcat Break Tuesday, March 15, 2022, in Nunez Community College Library.

Over spring break, students participated in Bobcat Break, a program organized by Texas State’s Service and Leadership Institute that gave students the the opportunity to complete service projects in Louisiana and learn about the state’s culture and history.
The trip lasted March 13-16, involving a 10-hour bus ride and three-day stay in Louisiana. While the majority of the program involved helping out communities in New Orleans, students also stopped in neighboring towns, such as Lafayette and Chalmette. Bobcat Break was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, but the program has been around since before 2014. In the future, students hope to expand to other locations as well.
This year, students were divided into three groups and traveled to different locations around New Orleans for service projects. Some helped move desks from old offices into classrooms, others painted bleachers and doors at a local baseball field and most students helped with renovations at a library in Nunez Community College.
Students woke up at 6 a.m. each morning to begin their day. After a freshly cooked breakfast, they would divide into groups and head out to complete a project in the community together. The groups worked until 4 p.m. with a lunch break around noon and then headed back to camp for about an hour of free time before dinner. By 10 p.m., everyone was in bed.
Zoe Cruz, an exercise and sports science sophomore, recalls the bonding that took place over the shared excitement of a new environment.
“You know how they have like those core memories, like in ‘Inside Out’? That’s one of them for me,” Cruz said. “Honestly, everyone on the trip, I’m happy that I can call them my friends now.”
Cruz’s group spent most of its time at the library, organizing books and replacing old shelves. The experience opened Cruz’s eyes to how intricate and important a librarian’s job is, along with how much help even smaller tasks can be to those who need it.
“I was organizing the box of books, and I thought like ‘oh, like this doesn’t do anything,’ but it does because, you don’t know when someone’s gonna get to it. It could be like five months later, you know?” Cruz said. “[The head librarian] even told me that like, what we did in the span of six hours of helping out in that college, in that library, is what takes them to finish in five months.”
As the head librarian at Nunez, Katelyn Baroody described the time she spent working with the students as a glimpse into the library’s future of bustling activity and passion for work.
“It was nice to see the space full of people who are excited about the changes that are happening,” Baroody said. “Because this space is kind of under construction right now and in transition, it’s not one that is used by our students a lot, so it kind of gave me a vision for what it could be with people working and, you know, just getting excited about the materials that we have.”
The library is in the process of creating a culinary library and research center through its partnership with the Southern Food and Beverages Museum in New Orleans. Once completed, the library will contain thousands of cookbooks and menus, along with papers and artifacts belonging to famous chefs. To Baroody, this will be a great way to preserve some of the rich culture found in Louisiana.
“Anybody who’s visited southern Louisiana can sort of attest to the fact that it’s very unique, whether it’s the food, the architecture [or] the customs,” Baroody said. “The work that the students are doing is really important in that aspect because the Culinary Research Center is going to help continue to sort of tell those stories and really influence future generations of researchers and cooks.”
Kelsey Burdick, a digital media junior, considered the ability to experience Louisiana’s culture first-hand as one of the most impactful aspects of the trip. Burdick enjoyed learning about the different traditions and ways of life in the cities she visited.
“As a younger, getting-educated generation, we often say that we’re trying to experience other cultures, but we don’t really physically go to see them,” Burdick said. “So, it was just a nice way to comfortably, like, go experience another culture but still have the support system of the school and other students.”
Burdick was most struck by how tight knit the community in New Orleans was, especially when it came to rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. To locals, Katrina is known as the hurricane that wiped out the infrastructure of New Orleans. While other hurricanes have happened since then, none have had such a widespread impact.
“The people who were able to stay just put everything into rebuilding and like, filling those gaps,” Burdick said. “So, like, people would open stores because there wasn’t a store like that in the area, and people needed things like the barbershops, so the community would really step up to try to rebalance, like what was taken away from them.”
Due to Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, many families were displaced, including Camp Director Walt Schroyer. He, alongside his wife Maylou, and his 11-month-old dog, worked to make sure all of the guests felt welcome through telling stories, waking up before everyone to make breakfast and being present with the campers.
“He turned [being displaced] into a positive by, like, really putting himself out there to support the community and support the people who are coming to help the community,” Burdick said.
Schroyer and his family showed the students an example of the dedication and grit communities in Louisiana embodied in order to overcome the difficulties of Hurricane Katrina. According to Burdick and Cruz, this attitude of strength and togetherness is a large part of Louisiana culture.
Overall, the students treasured the experience and the friendships they formed both with locals and other students. Like many of the friends she made along the way, Cruz plans to return each year of her college career.
“I would highly recommend doing this or at least trying,” Cruz said. “You never know when you get to travel somewhere. Again, you might as well take the opportunity, and it might change your perspective on how you can help, like, a community that’s like really far, like thousands of miles away from you.”
Bobcat Break was organized by Texas State’s Service and Leadership Institute. For more opportunities to get involved in leadership opportunities at Texas State, visit https://studentinvolvement.txstate.edu/sli/

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