When most people think of the Virgin Islands they envision clear blue water, white sandy beaches, tropical weather and stunning views. Melisa Efe experienced the Virgin Islands from a different angle.
Efe, sport and exercise psychology major, volunteers with All Hands and Hearts, an organization that helps communities effected by natural disasters. After Hurricane Irma and Maria in 2017, the U.S. Virgin Islands suffered severe flooding, wind damage and was left with mountains of debris. All Hands and Hearts sent a Rapid Response team to help with the damage following the storms. The relief continues. Efe traveled to St John over 2018 winter break to support recovery efforts.
“There are a number of things you could get assigned to while volunteering but it was mostly response or rebuild. Response is when you are answering a request by someone in the community. For example, many days we would send people to a community member’s house to help get rid of debris left from the hurricane. With rebuilding, it was time to help getting things in order and buildings back up,” explained Efe.
Efe, from Delaware, credits her experience with the All Hands and Hearts organization for opening her eyes as to how, as an individual, she can make an impact on a community.
CPASS Retention and Advising Specialist Killeen Schlegel reflects on the possibilities of human services within a SEP degree.
“Ever since I have worked with Melisa during her first year at WVU, she has been diligent and self-efficacious about seeking opportunities to apply what she has learned in the classroom. As any advisor would be, I was excited and curious about this experience with All Hands and Hearts she discovered this past winter break,” Schlegel said.
Schlegel explains how students who explore diverse environments often discover the next step in piecing together post-baccalaureate plans. “When students can apply broad or abstract concepts they learn in the classroom within an experiential learning environment, it can truly transform the way they view and utilize their academic program,” Schlegel added.
“The most distinguishable thing that I think people should know from my experience is that they can be the change that everyone always talks about. All it takes is the determination to get up, apply and go for it,” said Efe
After completing her degree this August, Efe plans to pursue a master’s in social work to provide a positive impact in communities. While working in the Virgin Islands, Efe felt that it was important to help others. She encourages students to get involved with non-profit organizations to explore what differences they can make in the world.
“Our sport and exercise psychology undergraduate students are always seeking new ways to integrate curriculum, which was the main reason why Melisa wanted to share her experience with others,” said Schlegel.