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LMU Student Discovers New Focus During a Winter Alternative Break

Senior Bernadette Matthews had always dreamed of getting a job in advertising for high-end art and fashion. As an intern for a national fashion magazine she was well on her way. But after many service experiences at Loyola Marymount University, Matthews has her eyes set on other aspirations.

“My experience at LMU has changed the direction of my life,” Matthews said. “I can’t see myself working for an organization that didn’t focus its time and energy on those who are less fortunate.”

One experience that influenced Matthews was a recent Alternative Break trip to New Orleans on Jan. 5 -12. The Alternative Break Program gives students a chance to immerse themselves in a new culture, provide aid through hands-on service experiences and educate themselves about international political and socioeconomic issues.

Along with 12 other LMU students and volunteers from Catholic Charities, Matthews helped repair houses that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Repairs included caulking and sealing cracks and leaks in walls, installing insulation and painting the outside of houses. Many of the students thought their assistance was minor, however the homeowners thought otherwise.

 “It’s amazing how a fresh coat of paint gave some owners their dignity back and a new feeling of hope,” Matthews said.

Matthews was also exposed to many issues facing the city. She visited a youth center adjacent to a dump in the Vietnamese community. Toxic materials and debris from the destruction of the hurricane were being dumped there and were harmful to the children. The community banded together and eventually forced the city to move the dump.

“Despite some media coverage, there are still a lot of injustices happening in New Orleans,” Matthews said. “It was powerful to learn about communities that fought against those injustices, and won.”

After graduation, Matthews plans to join a service program teaching art to mentally and physically handicapped people. Her ultimate goal is to work in advertising for a socially-conscious company or nonprofit organization.

 “I hope my art has the ability to make people think about the deeper issues of the world, not about sensationalism,” Matthews said.