David Benoit here. I hail from the great city of Boston, Mass; but I did spend a few years in Delray Beach, FL – so I guess you can say I’m a dual native of both cities and states. I haven’t quite come to grips with that yet but someday I will. I completed my undergraduate degree here at this great institution, the University of Central Florida, with a degree in Marketing and a minor in Sports Business Management (1 of 9 to first receive the minor, yes I’m tooting my own horn, but its ok). It’s great to be able to go to graduate school at my alma mater. It leaves no room for confusion as to where my allegiances lie, GO KNIGHTS!!!!!
Spring break has come and gone for us in our first year in the DeVos program. While others were tanning at the beaches or catching up on some much needed rest and foolery - my classmates spent our break getting our hands dirty and doing some real work done in the city of New Orleans, and the St. Bernard Parrish in partnership with Hope For Stanley (a non-profit founded by past DeVos students that is dedicated to rebuilding the city of New Orleans and providing hope to the people of that great city).
This was my 3rd trip to NOLA, but every time I go it brings excitement and new perspective. When I visited the city on my first trip back in August the feelings I felt were just indescribable. I felt anger, frustration, excitement, sadness. Just about any emotion you can think of I felt, and at the same time I felt empty as it was a surreal moment and experience. The 2nd trip in December was different in that some of the same feelings arose again, but not nearly as strong as the first and I was ready to work and do some positive things and help those people.
The 3rd trip was very different from the first two. As soon as I stepped foot into the hotel I wanted to get to a work site and get building. I have accepted the fact that the rest of the country and the world has forgotten about this city, and that everyone feels as if time alone can cure such a devastating tragedy. What they fail to realize is time can be a constant reminder, that if not fostered properly, re-growth can be at a standstill and even allow digression to take place. I am no longer angry when I think about the city of New Orleans, instead I am just hoping to make a difference.
When I arrived at my work site, my teammates ( I look at my classmates as my teammates) and I were happy to see that the house needed sheet rock put up. Dry walling is probably the most rewarding job you can do, in my opinion, because you can see the fruits of your labor, and see the progress that is being made. There were other schools involved with this work site so it was nice to see and interact with other students like us that felt the need to help the city and area. Although they were some NOLA rookies and complained a little too much on the grind of construction, they did their share and it was a really nice and different experience.
It was hilarious and uplifting at watching how upset my teammate got about the bad mudding job someone from another school was doing on her wall. I won’t name any names but she knows who she is. I am happy to be with a team that really cares about the quality of their work and that really wants to help others. By week’s end my teammates and I had the entire house’s dry wall completely hung up and mudded. I made sure to put my mark on a wall for the next group to see that the DeVos students held it down and they better do just as good of a job. Our reward for ourselves every night after a hard day’s work was to go out and experience the city. We spent time in different parts of NOLA by visiting restaurants, local colleges, and even had time to watch a Hornets game. We even got a picture with some of the Hornets dancers afterward. I tried to get kiss on the cheek from one but she wasn’t having that. Maybe next time!
The work was complete, and we were all tired and ready to head back to Orlando and get back to the easy life of graduate school (hearing that Natalie and Kaj still had energy to run every morning was just ridiculous, those girls have plenty of stamina!) but I can’t wait till August when I can go back again and show the new class what this city has gone through and allow them to see that the fight is not over, and we are the arms that will raise the city and help it prevail.
Going back to NOLA is no longer just an opportunity for me to give back; it has become part of my curriculum and part of who I am. I can be honest in myself in knowing that unfortunately once I leave the program I may not have time to come back like I do now while in the program. For me to miss a trip to NOLA would be like missing one of Dr. Lapchick’s classes or arriving late to a Dr. Harrison discussion, you just can’t do that, and if you do it better be for a darn good reason. I feel the same way about the Big Easy. I can’t begin to describe the immense level of pride, love and excitement I feel every day about my classmates and realize what it means when I can say I’m a member of 2011 graduating class of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at UCF. Visiting NOLA is another reason why I thank god for this tremendous opportunity and experience.