Make The Connection, Student Life

April 4, 2018

Katie Kuckelheim ’19 (left) captures a rare moment of rest for the Ohio Wesleyan team that spent spring break in Houston helping to repair a home severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy of Katie Kuckelheim)

Helping Houston Heal

Student-writer Reflects on Time in Texas

By Cole Hatcher

Name: Katie Kuckelheim ’19

Majors: Communication and History

Hometown: Solon, Ohio

Experience: Spring Break Interfaith Service Week trip, “Helping Houston Heal: Hurricane Harvey Recovery”

In August, Hurricane Harvey dumped record amounts of rainfall and caused devastating flooding in Texas. Kuckelheim and a team of six other students and two staff members spent their spring break helping to rebuild a family’s Houston-area home. The group worked with SBP, a nonprofit co-founded by an OWU alumnus Zack Rosenburg ’95, to assist with hurricane recovery. Other students participating on the trip were Mary Ellen Haskett (logistics leader), Leia Ashikawa (reflection leader), Jenelle Collier, Evan Hudgens, Isabelle Rodriguez, and Alex Weiss. The students were accompanied by staff members Chad Johns and Annie Stinemetz.

Lessons Learned

“I chose the Houston Trip in particular because it was inspiring to see the fundraisers students put together and the effort being exerted (immediately) after Hurricane Harvey. I was lucky enough during this period of time, to meet Mary Ellen Haskett, a passionate OWU student from Austin, Texas, who wanted to go back to her home state and help rebuild Houston. I talked to her in depth for an article I wrote for the Connect2 OWU newsletter. After the interview, I signed up to be considered for an Interfaith Service team, and I was lucky enough to be put on the Houston team.

“My favorite moment of the trip was meeting the family whose home we’ve been rebuilding. It was of a family of 4. The couple adopted their nephew, who has a heart condition. The goal of the project was to finish the home so the boy can recover from his next heart surgery at home. …

“The trip to Houston taught me many life lessons. One is that helping others is rewarding, not because we pity someone, but because it’s genuinely the right thing to do. Another is that, the outside almost never reflects what’s on the inside. Homes do not have to be flattened to be in an unlivable condition. …

“Finally, spending my spring break helping others and having fun with my fellow teammates was much more rewarding than going on a stereotypical college spring break.”

Why I chose Ohio Wesleyan

“I chose Ohio Wesleyan because of travel opportunities, rigorous academics, and because I love the atmosphere of the campus. The campus has a long, rich history, which feels academically inspiring to me.”

My plans after graduation

“I plan to obtain a job that blends my majors in history and communication, and then later attaining my master’s degree.”