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KNOXVILLE — Fifteen University of Tennessee, Knoxville, freshmen will put some of this year’s early lessons into practice this weekend when they travel to St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, just outside New Orleans, to assist Remote Area Medical (RAM).

All first-year students were eligible to apply for this trip, and these students were selected because of their written explanation of why they wanted to participate.

This trip is an extension of the Life of the Mind program for incoming freshmen. Life of the Mind is a component of Ready for the World, the university’s international and intercultural initiative, and asks all freshmen to read a common book during the summer, submit a creative response to the text and participate in discussion sessions during the first week of classes. This year’s book is “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder’s best-selling story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who founded Partners in Health and has done extensive work to fight tuberculosis, AIDS and other illnesses in Haiti, Peru and Russia.

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Susan Martin, who will be accompanying the students, said she believes this trip will be a worthwhile learning experience for these freshmen.

“This service project — the first of several planned that relate to the themes in ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ — will give this group of students the chance to experience another place, another culture and circumstances very different from what they might be accustomed to,” she said.

The experiences also have the opportunity to show them their ability to effect change in the world.

“Our students have heard of the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. Now they’ll have a chance to see what those catastrophes have meant to the people who live and work in the Gulf region and what they can do to help,” Martin said.

The students and Provost Martin will work from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the RAM clinic, directing traffic, registering patients and making eyeglasses. Thousands of patients are expected to visit the clinic during their stay.

RAM is a nonprofit, volunteer, airborne relief corps that provides free health, dental and eye care; veterinary services; and technical and educational assistance to people in remote areas of the United States and the world.

Freshmen going on the trip are Ethan Carman of Germantown, Tenn.; Marianela D’Aprile of Martin, Tenn.; De’Marcus Finnell of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Valencia Guein from Clarksville, Tenn.; Jasmine Hammons of Bradenton, Fla.; Emily Kennedy of Kingsport, Tenn.; Kelsey Murphy of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Richie Ness of Cleveland, Tenn.; Mary Nethaway of McKenzie, Tenn.; Molly Payne of Kingsport, Tenn.; Barbara Phillips of Johnson City, Tenn.; Ashley Smith of Gulfport, Miss.; Travis Sullivan of Farragut, Tenn.; Lyhanna Usher of Memphis, Tenn.; and Cody Walker of Columbia, Tenn.

Upperclassmen accompanying the group are Leslie Price of Morristown, Tenn., and Angela Sessoms of Fayetteville, Tenn.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,

Staff members with the students in New Orleans:

Drew Webb (931-319-7997,

Craig Bleakney(615-336-3424,