(From Northwest News Service)
MARYVILLE, Mo. – When Madison Atwell arrived at Northwest Missouri State University, she knew she wanted to study a field that held her passion and fit her desire to help people. Her friends and advisors recommended emergency disaster management, and she knew it was exactly what she was looking for after the first class session.
Now, Atwell, a Maryville native, is graduating from Northwest. She wants to help refugees, and appreciates the ways the University taught her to seek opportunities for career advancement.
“Getting to know my professors, going to Student Activities Council lectures and taking advantage of the resources that Northwest has given me has made my college experience more than an in-classroom education,” Atwell said. “I think Northwest does a really good job of making time for each student.”
Atwell also appreciates the profession-based learning experiences Northwest offers to students, such as the Missouri Hope disaster relief training exercise. She encourages students to participate in the exercise and enhance not only their emergency management skills but leadership and team-building skills.
“Missouri Hope is like experiencing a real-life natural disaster,” Atwell said. “You practice medical assistance, operations, and it’s okay to make mistakes. The emergency disaster management program knows that sometimes you have to fail so that you can thrive in the future. I think Missouri Hope is one of the best experiences Northwest offers to prepare students for future careers.”
Atwell says John Carr, the director of Northwest’s emergency management program, became one of her biggest proponents.
“He is great at coaching students to achieve their goals,” Atwell said. “His passion for students and emergency disaster management inspires others to think bigger than what we believe about ourselves.”
Because of the skills she developed at Northwest, Atwell was compelled to travel to Texas last year to aid victims of a life-threatening Category 4 storm, Hurricane Harvey.
Atwell traveled with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, where she interned the previous summer and trained in disaster relief management. She obtained firsthand experience in the incident command system, along with assessing damaged homes and helping homeowners by removing drywall, flooring and clothing ruined by the flooding.
“I got to know the victims the best while working on their homes,” Atwell said. “During those moments, I saw what was special to them and what they wanted to hold onto when deciding what items should go.”
Atwell worked in the kitchen the last two days of the trip. In one day, Atwell and other Southern Baptist volunteers made 9,000 meals by lunchtime.
“It’s pretty cool to see the power of volunteers who are devoting their lives to disaster relief,” Atwell said. “My experience was really impactful.”
Atwell says the real-world experience took her beyond simulations and training.
“When going into the victim’s home, you see their belongings and all the items they built up and treasure over the years,” Atwell said. “It taught me that what we do is not just getting the job done as fast as we can, but really making time to care for the victim and help them heal through the entire process.”
Helping victims of Hurricane Harvey is not Atwell’s only experience of traveling to aid others. Last July, she traveled to Kenya to visit a camp to help internally displaced people and mothers that were victims of sex trafficking.
“If you have the opportunity to do things like this, do it,” Atwell said. “It adds more to what you are learning in class, and it adds more to your experience. Northwest does a great job of allowing students to have these experiences that will equip us the best in a real life scenario or career.”