While Fargo-Moorhead area colleges have canceled classes, University of Minnesota students will have to skip them to help out with the flood expected to hit the region later this week.
At least forty students from the University’s Morris campus have headed north to fill and place sandbags, and a number of Twin Cities students are planning to do so as soon as their class schedules allow.
First-year student Michelle Schultz , who is from Fargo, said she expects to head home sometime on Thursday to help sandbag before the river crests. If it weren’t for class, she’d already be helping out at home, she said.
“I hate being in Minneapolis watching my city needing help and I can’t be there,” she said.
English junior Joe Herman’s family lost its house in the 1997 floods, and now their home is being threatened again. They moved into another house on the river, Herman said, and though their yard is full of water, the house is being kept “relatively dry.”
He said about half of his Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity plan to head to Fargo Saturday morning, he said. Though only four are from the Fargo area, he said many of his fraternity brothers want to help out too.
“I wish I could be there, doing more,” he said, but Saturday’s the earliest he can leave. “I’ve been through this before and I don’t want to lose another house.”
But at least one University student is obligated to miss class and help out. Political science junior Mike Kelleher was on a class break Monday morning when he got a phone call from his U.S. Coast Guard Reserve chief saying he should be prepared to go north to help.
His chief called him again a couple hours later to let him know that he and others from his unit were being called right away to the Red River Valley.
“I just started grabbing stuff out of my closet, typing e-mails to all my professors,” he said. He found his professors were understanding about a previous Coast Guard obligation, he said, and he expects to be able to make up the work he’s missing when he returns.
Kelleher said he expects to be gone between two and four weeks. His orders right now go until April 3, he said, but could be shortened or extended.
He and seven other reservists from his unit deployed to Fergus Falls last night and traveled this morning to Fargo, where they’ve been on standby so far.
When the flood hits, though, he said he and his colleagues will use special shallow-water boats to help remove people, animals and things from places made inaccessible by the water, or to secure debris that could cause damage.
He said he’s heard from others who helped out during the 1997 flooding that basically, “you’re just there to help whoever needs it.”
And that’s what about 40 University of Minnesota-Morris students are doing.
Though a Fox9 .com news report that stated the Morris campus had canceled classes was incorrect, students are taking time out to help sandbag in Breckenridge , Minn., and Fargo .
The confusion apparently arose after the Office of Student Activities issued a call for students interested in volunteering.
Carol McCannon , a student activities program adviser, said about 20 students, including the women’s volleyball team, went to Breckenridge Monday to help fill sandbags. The volleyball team is trying to recruit a student in the area, she said, which is part of the reason the team wanted to help out there.
Other students contacted the office saying they wanted to help out in Fargo, so Morris sent another 20 students to the Fargodome Tuesday. There, volunteers are sent to unload, place or fill sandbags depending on what’s most urgently needed, McCannon said.
She said she doesn’t know if Morris will be sending more students in the coming days, and noted that Concordia College , North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University-Moorhead have all canceled classes so student volunteers could help out.
The need for sandbags is big, she said — it’s risen from an originally estimated 1.2 million bags to 3 million.
As for the Morris volunteers, McCannon said “It’s hard for people to just walk away from classes … so the 40 kids that are going from here, that’s a big sacrifice from them.”
It’s hard work, too, said University alumnus Greg Tehven . Working with Students Today Leaders Forever — the national nonprofit he helped found — Tehven helped organize about 800 college and high school students from the Fargo-Moorhead area last weekend, he said.
He helped fill sandbags and build dikes for the past couple days before returning to Minneapolis today, and said he’ll be organizing flood volunteers this week and after the river crests.
“It’s very hard work, it’s very taxing on the body … but it’s kind of a special feeling, where you feel as if people are coming together to help each other out,” Tehven said. “They’re just getting after it and getting it done.”