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Jennifer Hoscheid, sophomore business administration major from Pierre, tries to remain relaxed as Sara Gottlob, CNP, gives her a dose of the Hepatitis A vaccine. Hoscheid is one of several BHSU students and employees who will spend her spring break in New Orleans on a service project to assist with the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

The opportunity of a lifetime is only weeks away for 20 Black Hills State University students and leaders who will assist with hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans, gutting houses, removing mold, and rebuilding. Preparation for members of the Alternative Spring Break team is neither easy nor inexpensive; however, recent action by a community business leader once again exemplifies the great generosity of the Black Hills community.         

Regional Health and Rapid City Regional Hospital donated Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine for all students and leaders attending the BHSU Community - University – Resource – Exchange (C-U-R-E) Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans March 3-10. These immunizations are expensive and many of these dedicated students would otherwise have volunteered unprotected from the risk of contracting these diseases.

“This gift reinforces what a wonderful community we live in, and we are thankful to Rapid City Regional Hospital for their volunteer spirit and their generosity toward our students,” said Dr. Judith Haislett, BHSU vice president for Student Affairs. 

“Our first concern is for the health of the volunteers,” said Rita Haxton, vice president of Patient Care for Rapid City Regional Hospital. “We did not want to see any of these volunteers be unprotected because of the cost of the vaccine.”       

When hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 ravaged the Gulf Coast, particular havoc was wreaked in New Orleans.  With levees breached and much of the city under water, concerns quickly arose about the spread of disease among residents and relief workers.  Floodwaters were contaminated with bacteria, viruses, raw sewage, and various chemicals.  Even after all this time, these pollutants pose a risk to volunteers.

This is just one of many concerns that Janette Hettick, volunteer coordinator at the BHSU C-U-R-E office, considers as she prepares students for Alternative Spring Break.

“There are so many factors that play into the safety of these students. In addition to the risk of disease, the crime rate in New Orleans is elevated, and there are mental and psychological stressors that accompany such a drastic culture change and working in a natural disaster environment,” Hettick says.

The Alternative Spring Break team will work with Hands On New Orleans, a non-profit group focused on providing relief and recovery for hurricane victims.     

Jennifer Hoscheid, BHSU sophomore business administration major from Pierre and Alternative Spring Break member, is thankful for the hospital’s generosity.

“With the shots they are indirectly assisting the hurricane victims themselves as they are enabling us to better serve the people of New Orleans,” Hoscheid says.  

Fundraising efforts are now underway for travel and food expenses for the Alternative Spring Break trip. Students will be responsible for all expenses that are not otherwise funded. If you are interested in supporting the BHSU Alternative Spring Break team, donations can be sent to Black Hills State University C-U-R-E, 1200 University Street Unit 9035, Spearfish, SD 57799.  All donations are tax deductible, and checks can be written to the BHSU Foundation. For additional details contact Hettick at 605-642-6471.