Common Ground Relief
see info below


Please note the information below reflects the dates, prices, and itinerary for our 2020 course which was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We continue to monitor the situation and will update the course information for Summer 2021 once we have deemed the course safe in consultation with science-based recommendations, NGO leaders’ insight, advice from SStS board member physicians, and travel industry knowledge from Global Rescue. We have no intention to travel under any circumstances that do not meet our high expectations for risk management. If you have any questions about Summer 2021 programming please contact Bill Cotter ([email protected]).


June 20 to June 27, 2020

8 Days

Arrival City

New Orleans, Louisiana

SStS partners with Common Ground Relief to restore wetlands that help create resilient and sustainable Gulf Coast communities.
The SStS New Orleans course was born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

After the devastation and floods that the storm brought to New Orleans, volunteers from all over the United States rushed to aid in the recovery of the Crescent City. Before government funds were accessible, several grassroots organizations sprang to life putting volunteers into action and assisting homeowners with the rebuilding process. SStS students will experience the community’s grassroots efforts to rebuild by working with one of these organizations, Common Ground Relief, which empowers residents to facilitate their own recovery by supporting projects ranging from neighborhood revitalization and rehabilitation to wetlands restoration and community gardening. They hope these programs will help restore viable neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents.

While in New Orleans, the SStS group will work on ecological projects in the wetlands intended to lessen the potential impact of future hurricanes and potentially in areas of the city that have yet to fully recover. Students will have a chance to experience the Lower 9th Ward, where much of Katrina’s devastation is still clearly visible today. Additionally, throughout the course, participants will explore the city of New Orleans. After hearing the music that fills this city, they will learn about the history of jazz while visiting the French Quarter. Another highlight is a swamp tour that will provide the students with a firsthand perspective on life in rural Louisiana and its unique traditions. Time will also be spent with local residents, hearing their powerful accounts of how Katrina directly affected their lives. Throughout the program, students will experience the unique food, music, and culture of New Orleans, help the community to rebuild and revitalize, and learn invaluable lessons about ethical leadership.

Learn More

The mission of Common Ground Relief is to create resilient Gulf Coast communities that are environmentally sustainable, financially viable and personally cohesive. To learn more, please visit their website.

Common Ground Relief

Course Elements

The course elements are based on a rating from 1 to 5, 1 being the least rigorous, 5 being the most rigorous.


A couple of the days will likely be spent planting native species in the wetlands surrounding New Orleans in order to help restore this shrinking eco-system. Other days will be spent working at the nurseries where these plants are grown or supporting the work of other non-profits in the Lower 9th Ward.


Prior to their travels, students complete a series of online activities (30 minutes each). While traveling, they also read engaging articles, participate in cultural experiences, and create presentations in small groups.


While in New Orleans, the group will spend time exploring various cultural sites on foot. However, these activities only require relatively short walks.

Living Conditions60%

The group stays at Common Ground Relief’s volunteer house, which is a historic home in the Lower 9th Ward with shared kitchens and living space as well as bunkrooms for students.

On the Move40%

Throughout their time in New Orleans, most of the service work and cultural experiences only require a short drive. However, the location of the wetlands planting projects sometimes allows the group to travel outside of the city to see the surrounding bayous and Gulf Coast communities.


Although the group will stay in the heart of the Lower 9th Ward, they do not stay in the homes of individual families.


The group will spend a majority of their time exploring different neighborhoods in the New Orleans metropolitan area. One afternoon will be spent doing the Honey Island Swamp tour, and some of the wetlands restoration work occurs outside of the city.

Element Descriptions


Day 1

Arrival day, begin group orientation

Day 2

Cultural activities in the Vieux Carre, continue group orientation

Day 3

Plant nursery work, tour of the French Quarter

Day 4

Wetlands restoration work, local guest speakers

Day 5

Wetlands restoration work, cultural experience

Day 6

4th of July celebration with local residents

Day 7

Other project work, Honey Island Swamp Tour, closing dinner

Day 8

Departure day

New Orleans

: In Three Phases


the 5 Lenses Curriculum

Prior to departure, students are guided by their course instructors through a series of interactive, online lessons. Organized by SStS’s Five Lenses Curriculum, these activities (30 minutes per week) allow students to directly engage with other members of
the group.


partnering with ngos

The majority of the days at each site are spent engaged in meaningful service work with our NGO (non-governmental organization) partner. Days not dedicated to project work are spent immersed in intriguing cultural activities.


post travel advocacy

During the next school year, students educate others by advocating for our NGO partner through public presentations to the community at large and/or younger, school-based audiences.

Travel Journal

During the travel phase of each SStS course, students spend time reflecting about the learning that occurs through their immersion and service experiences. These posts capture the impact of our programs on individual students. Explore the posts below to learn about the SStS New Orleans program from the important viewpoint of our students.

Explore New Orleans

Important Details

Cost Information

Students who attend a school that is a member of SStS’s Global Schools Coalition receive a tuition discount. To see the list of schools in the coalition, click HERE.

Tuition (students from members of the Global Schools Coalition): $1585
Tuition (students not from members of the Global Schools Coalition): $1685

SStS is in search of curious, compassionate, globally-minded students. Thus, we will do all that we can financially to support students whose circumstances preclude paying the full cost. If you would like to be considered for financial assistance, please indicate so on the application. Financial assistance resources are limited. Scholarships tend to be less than 50% of tuition.

Please note, tuition does not include airfare.
Tuition costs are all inclusive with the exception of personal expenditures (e.g. souvenirs).
Talbot Travel Agency provides travel services for SStS, working personally with us to find the least expensive fares.

Travel Expectations

Please note that we expect all participants to arrive in New Orleans within a defined window of time to be picked up by their course instructors. Additionally, traveling as a group inevitably includes “the unexpected.” SStS will adjust the itinerary accordingly, making the best of uncontrollable situations. Due to the unknown variables in travel, participants are asked not to make travel plans or to enroll in programs that start immediately after their return. SStS is not responsible for expenses incurred due to missed flights if the group is delayed in their return.



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