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Katrina Schweitzer '14 embarks on a career helping New Orleans families repair their homes

imageKat Schweitzer '14 has invested a remarkable number of volunteer hours in helping others.
By Melissa Hankins 08/12/14 -  

When Katrina Schweitzer was little and living in Las Vegas with her mom, the two of them would swing by McDonald's every week to buy dozens of Happy Meals. Then they'd take the boxes stuffed with burgers, fries and Beanie Babies (the toy du jour) to a part of town nicknamed Tent City, which was teeming with the homeless. The food fixed a few hunger pains,the stuffed animals generated some smiles and taking the time to really care about others would turn five-year-old Schweitzer into one of the most charitable students to grace the campus of Queens University of Charlotte.

"It was definitely instilled in me early," she says. "I was always at the local shelter in Las Vegas - I ended up taking so many cats home," she recalls, laughing. "But then I came to Charlotte because I had an uncle in Gastonia, and he was constantly telling me I should go to college here." Schweitzer decided that one of her goals would be to write about her altruistic experiences, so she Googled creative writing in North Carolina and discovered the lauded program at Queens.

Four years later, she's graduated, with a job already waiting for her at the Saint Bernard Project in New Orleans. She'll oversee volunteers rebuilding houses damaged by the infamous hurricane that ironically shares her name. The organization focuses on repairing the more than 1,500 homes destroyed within the Saint Bernard parish in southeast Louisiana. Many of the families still live in FEMA trailers.

Schweitzer is known for stirring action at school, where she has encouraged other students to volunteer for everything from the Children's Miracle Network to Habitat for Humanity. "I constantly make my friends come along," she says cheerfully. "We live in a time and place where we have the resources to help others, but we don't always take advantage of those resources to do so. If I serve, and others see that I'm clearly enjoying what I do, maybe I can inspire them to do the same."

Pat Taft of the Center for Active Citizenship at Queens says Schweitzer has done exactly that on campus, transforming another organization dedicated to helping those with damaged homes called the Build 4 Cause club. "She's leaving a legacy," says Taft.

Read more stories from Queens magazine, Summer 2014 issue.

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