Almeida travels to New Orleans
More than seven years later, the city of New Orleans is still
struggling with the devastating effects from Hurricane Katrina. In
an effort to pay it forward, Rocky Hill High School has completed
six annual service trips to the great American city.
Almeida '13 was asked to join her father, principal of Rocky Hill High
School, as a chaperone this year's trip, she agreed without
“My dad has been doing this trip since he became principal five
years ago," said Almeida. " I was always interested in his stories,
but never thought I, too, would have the opportunity to take part
since I never attended Rocky Hill High.”
From February 18 through 25, five chaperones and 25 junior
and senior students completed three full work days. They worked on
four different houses, all at different stages of completion. Under
the supervision of Habitat for Humanity volunteers, the Rocky Hill
group painted the exterior of the homes, fixed porches, installed
interior hardware and completed an entire handicap ramp, among many
“The students’ work ethic was incredible,” Almeida explained. “For
many of us, this was the first time using a paintbrush or saw, but
still everyone accepted tasks without hesitation or complaint.”
The four homes were sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, an
organization dedicated to building simple and affordable homes for
families in need. These houses and many of the houses that Rocky
Hill has worked on in the past are in the Ninth Ward- an area of
great poverty that also suffered tremendously from levee breaches
and flooding from Katrina.
“You can tell which houses are Habitat houses in the area, and,
unfortunately, there aren’t many, in comparison to all those that
still remain in shambles,” Almeida said. But still, hope remains.
The students and chaperones brought incredible energy and life to
the New Orleans neighborhoods, and their hard work never went
unnoticed. Residents of neighboring houses would walk or drive by to
give words of encouragement and gratitude as the group worked. Even
after a work day was completed, the story of Rocky Hill would spread
as curious passers-by approached students on the city streets, in
restaurants and at trolley stops.
The proud people of New Orleans are persistent in restoring their
great city, and even after extreme catastrophe, they remain hopeful.
It is their gratitude that keeps Rocky Hill High School coming back.
English teacher David Fortier was the original faculty advisor for
the trip and still continues to attend the trip each year. “After
the first trip, I fell in love with New Orleans, its people, its
pain and its potential—not just for the people there, but for the
students who travel there,” he said.
Fortier and the other chaperones agreed that a trip like this allows
individuals to see the world and learn that anyone can make a
difference. In a single week, the 30 participants, and those who
traveled before them, have the opportunity to learn about themselves
and connect with those in need on a personal level.
“Many of our students and many people in general have never
witnessed or experienced poverty,” said Principal Almeida. “This
trip exposes our students to what lies outside the comforts of Rocky
Hill. It is a wake-up call that allows them to participate in a
Though the trip is a huge expense, the faculty and students would
like to continue their efforts in New Orleans, as well as establish
a Habitat for Humanity club that does community service within Rocky
Hill and surrounding areas. The yearly trip has become a part of the
culture at Rocky Hill High school. For Alexandria Almeida though,
the trip has made her think about her future.
“I have never had an opportunity to give back in this capacity
before,” said Alexandria Almeida. “You know that every paint stroke,
every drill hole, every drip of sweat is meaningful-you end up
forgetting about yourself in all of it and thinking about the
memories, happiness and safety that this house will bring to its
communications major, Almeida hopes to work in public relations for
non-profit organizations after graduation. With a personal interest
in public health and welfare, the trip gave her exposure, but also
“In this day and age, so many of us spend life just going through
the motions without any motivation or passion for what we do,” said
Almeida. “We seem to forget about the world going on outside our
personal comfort zones, and this trip was a turning point for me.
New Orleans will forever be a special place for me and an
inspiration for all future endeavors.”