Alternative Breaks
Amyotte, 43 students earn praise for work in New Orleans

A Central New York-based nonprofit organization that’s “rebuilding the Gulf Coast one home at a time” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina had high praise for the largest ever SUNY Oswego alternative winter break group and its leader, Alyssa Amyotte of the Compass.

In a Jan. 27 letter to President Deborah F. Stanley, Norm Andrzejewski, founder of Operation Southern Comfort, made glowing remarks about Amyotte, coordinator of service learning and community service, for her role in leading the January trip.

“Last week, 43 representatives of SUNY Oswego, led by Alyssa Amyotte, traveled to the Gulf Coast to work on rebuilding St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans,” Andrzejewski wrote of the project’s 31st session since January 2006.

“Ms. Amyotte is truly a blessing,” he wrote. “She was indefatigable in her efforts, and skilled in organization. As a result, the trip went smoothly, and glitches were minimal.”

Amy Wolff, a senior psychology major, said Amyotte is one of the most kind-hearted, hardest-working people she knows.

“She helped the students stay focused by keeping them motivated, and made the trip go smoothly,” Wolff said. “Anyone who has been in the same room as her, or has had the luxury of engaging in a conversation with her, knows she brightens up a room with her smile and her charming personality. Helping others may be her largest attribute.”

Rewarding work

Amyotte, who worked with a group of 10 painting the interior of a house for a family of four, deflects the attention and focuses on the trip and the students, whom she called “amazing.” She hopes to return this summer to finish the house and meet the family that will be living there.

“The students were terrific,” Amyotte said. “I did not have to motivate them much.  Students who usually go on these kinds of trips know that they are there to help people.” 

After the students, including some from Le Moyne College, and Amyotte completed their work, Operation Southern Comfort invited residents of the St. Bernard Parish homes to a candle-lighting ceremony. “It was really rewarding, hearing stories from the victims of Katrina,” Wolff said.

In addition to the New Orleans team, Oswego students worked in rural communities in West Virginia and Jamaica. They helped out in classrooms at a preschool and painted the interior of primary schools in both locations.

The students did not stop there, Amyotte said, also building huts and showers for future volunteers to use. 

For more information on how to be part of an alternative break, contact the Center for Service Learning and Community Service at 312-5360, e-mail or visit

(Posted: Feb 14, 2011)