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EOP Student Transformed by Service Trip to Haiti

EOP Student Transformed by Service Trip to Haiti

Posted: November 1, 2016

Buffalo State senior Printice Latson has seen more than his share of hardship. Raised within the New York State foster care system, Latson had no family to rely on financially or emotionally once he started college.

As a result, the Lafayette High School graduate and transfer student found himself homeless his junior year. Bouncing between a friend’s couch and the Franciscan Center, Latson battled uncertainty and despair.

“It was difficult having to run around and get help while trying to focus on my education,” Latson said. “It sent me into a depression, and I didn’t want to do anything.” 

But the soft-spoken and determined young man who is studying theater and dance pulled himself out of that situation. He’s currently living in the Student Apartment Complex and is on track to graduate in May.

He emphasized that he never wanted sympathy. He did desire a sense of family and community. He found that through Buffalo State’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the Alpha Nu Omega fraternity.

The confidence and support he received from both organizations compelled him to embark on a life-changing experience last May. Latson joined eight other students on a service-learning trip to Borgne, Haiti. Led by EOP Director Yanick Jenkins in partnership with the nonprofit organization Haitian Outreach Pwoje Espwa (HOPE), the students worked with residents in various mobile clinics, as part of HOPE’s mission to help the 80,000 residents in northeast Haiti with health care, education, and economic development.

“Our mission was to observe the culture, absorb their language, and see what life is like in a third-world country,” Latson said. “Some people had to walk more than seven miles just to get clean water. Though they didn’t speak English, we were able to communicate. I definitely learned that life is precious and we have a lot to be thankful for as Americans. It put some of my hardships into perspective.”

Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner, who serves on the HOPE board of directors, travels to Haiti every year and encourages others on campus to do so as well. Jenkins, who lived in Haiti until she was six years old, was eager to go. She noted that Latson wasn’t the only student who felt transformed by the trip.

“I saw growth in all of them. These are students who otherwise aren’t able to travel because they think they can’t afford it and students who often come from tough circumstances,” she said. “Then they see people in Haiti, who don’t have 99 percent of the things we have, walking around and smiling. They aren’t complaining."

“It was a service-learning trip,” Jenkins said. “But it turned out to be so much more than helping the people of Borgne. It ended up being life-changing for many of us.”

Students paid for the trip through fundraisers and assistance from the International Education Office, the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, and EOP benefactors George Dougherty and Gary Whitten.

Jenkins said she hopes to make the Haiti trip an annual spring service-learning course so that more students can enjoy the transformative experience.

“I was taken out of my reality and given a chance to reflect on life,” Latson said.

The group reunited over the weekend of October 15–16 and raised more than $1,000 for HOPE's disaster-relief efforts for Borne, which was ravaged by Hurricane Matthew earlier that month.

Read more: President's blog - Supporting Borgne, Haiti, the Buffalo State Way

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