Students spend spring break building homes in Biloxi

College students from all over the country and some from Canada are following through on the promises they made not to forget the damage Hurricane Katrina wrought on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

More than 600 are participating in alternative break programs this month. Students are spending a week building homes and working on other projects for South Mississippi nonprofits rather than soaking up sun in more leisurely activities.

Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is hosting 420 students from 14 colleges and universities on a rotating basis through the end of March as part of the Collegiate Challenge, a program of Habitat for Humanity International. Collegiate Challenge is a nationwide, year-round alternative break program that has been active on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A group of 20 students from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., are working with the local Habitat affiliate this week to build a house on 45th Avenue in Gulfport.

"It's amazing to think that once we are done someone is going to live in this house," said volunteer Chelsea Isherwood.

Students from Sacred Heart have returned to the Gulf Coast each year since the storm. Isherwood and fellow volunteer Rob Bristol are veterans of the Collegiate Challenge program, but this is their first visit to South Mississippi.

"Three-and-a-half years after the storm there is still this much damage. It's a shocker," said Bristol.

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