Four Kent School of Social Work master’s students and three baccalaureate students spent their annual spring break doing service learning work in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The low-income area was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The trip served as an introduction to the city and to the Kent in New Orleans (KINO) program, said Judy Heitzman, the faculty member who led it. Besides their work and activities in New Orleans, the students also visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute — which is associated with civil rights issues of the 1960s— on their way back to Louisville.

The KINO program lets students do their required field placements and attend their final classes in New Orleans rather than in Louisville. Many of the field placements are in Central City, which still needs much work to rebuild, Heitzman said.

As the KINO program grows, she added, there will be opportunities to expand placements to other parts of the New Orleans area.

Carol Tully, a retired Kent School professor and native of New Orleans who returned there after Katrina, teaches courses and serves as KINO placement field liaison/supervisor.

Students Sara Willihnganz and Elisha Carter are studying in New Orleans this semester. Ngoc Uyen Nguyen, Ayana Tyler, Aqueelah Haleem and Ben Leamon plan to do their placements in 2012 through the KINO program and took part in the spring break trip.

“They’re all fired up now,” Heitzman said.

Since 2009, six students have participated in the KINO program, she said.

Tully, Martha Fuller, master of social work field placement coordinator, and former doctoral student Stacy Deck started KINO. Heitzman signed on as Louisville field liaison as soon as the program began.