April 19, 2014  

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AmeriCorps Youth Leaders Recognized for Tornado Clean-Up Efforts

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IDS TRIAD AmeriCorps members participating in campus tornado clean-up efforts include, from left, members Dan Lewis, Clay Nix, Haley Graham, Reagan Ratcliff, Rachael Barnes, Alex Hernandez, volunteer Lauren Mitchell and social work intern Rebecca Busby. (Submitted photo)

Service to the community is an important component of The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies’ TRIAD Service AmeriCorps project.

Project participants, who are Hattiesburg-area youth and young adults with developmental disabilities, routinely provide services to community organizations. But there was nothing routine about their service work on Feb. 13 and 14 just a few days after an F-4 tornado hit the Hattiesburg campus.

TRIAD youth leaders and their project coordinator spent hours on campus filling large garbage bags with debris such as sticks, pieces of concrete, glass, sheet rock, and leaves. “I want to give back,” said Rachel Barnes. “I can help, too.”

“These member volunteers wanted to assist in the disaster relief process,” said Dr. Jerry R. Alliston, TRIAD project coordinator. “They wanted to give back to their community, and the University campus after the Feb. 10 tornado was the place where they could make a visible difference.”

The TRIAD youth registered with the University’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement and spent productive hours on two days cleaning up on the front portion of campus where the tornado did the most damage.

TRIAD Service AmeriCorps is a two-year project funded by Volunteer Mississippi. After their clean-up days, members were featured in an article in the Corporation for National Service Disaster Brief for their much appreciated service. TRIAD focuses on assisting students with disabilities in transition in to adulthood.

This transition includes national service, employment, post-secondary education, and adult health care services. A total of 20 youth and young adults with and without disabilities are included in the project. Dr. Royal Walker, executive director of the Institute for Disability Studies, noted, “TRIAD has been one of our most important initiatives here at the Institute.”

For more information about the TRIAD Service AmeriCorps project, visit the IDS website at www.usm.edu/disability-studies/triad-americorps-overview.