Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Virgin Islands Teenager Visits UNO NAME School through the Make-A-Wish Foundation®

Virgin Islands Teenager Visits UNO NAME SchoolJavon Douglas participates in a ship model test in the University's state-of-the-art towing tank inside the Engineering Building as part of his visit to the University of New Orleans. 

A teenager from the Virgin Islands who loves cruise ships and dreams of becoming a ship designer last month visited the University of New Orleans School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"A dream of his is to build cruise ships and he did his research and he saw that the University of New Orleans was one of the top universities in the United States where he could learn more," said Melissa Mitchell, spokeswoman for the Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana chapter in Metairie, La. "He asked to come here. The Florida chapter actually sent him here and we helped to coordinate his wish."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children who have life-threatening medical conditions in the United States and its surrounding territories. On average, one wish is granted every 38 minutes, according to the organization. About six months ago, the Make-A-Wish office in Metairie contacted the UNO NAME School to arrange a visit to New Orleans for 15-year-old Javon Douglas and his mother, Allison.

"We were happy to have him," said Norm Whitley, dean of the College of Engineering. "It's always exciting to see young people who have an interest in naval architecture and marine engineering here on campus."

The five-day four-night visit to New Orleans was "a real treat" for Douglas, said Mitchell.

"It was definitely an awesome experience for him," she said, of Douglas, who has grown up watching cruise ships and other large vessels coming and going to foreign countries from his island home. "It was an experience in itself coming here."

Douglas, a high school freshman in the Virgin Islands, spent an entire day at the University of New Orleans. During his visit to campus, Douglas participated in a ship model test in the University's state-of-the-art towing tank, where students, researchers and regional shipbuilders test and refine their designs.

He also participated with University students in a 3-D modeling exercise where he was able to model a cruise ship hull, said Assistant Professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering Brandon Taravella. Naval architects then printed the hull that Douglas designed on the University's 3-D printer so that he could both witness the process and keep a souvenir of his stay.

Douglas was made an honorary member of one of the NAME School's senior design groups and attended the seniors' final presentation at the Southern Yacht Club, where he was also made an honorary member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

UNO NAME professors also worked with colleagues at the Port of New Orleans to arrange a tour of the Carnival Elation cruise ship for Douglas, Taravella said. On this tour, Douglas was able board and view the entire ship, as well as meet some of the ship's officers. The Port of New Orleans also arranged a private tour of the Mississippi River for Douglas on one of their fire boats.

"He actually got to have lunch with the captain, which was amazing for him," said Mitchell, who added that Douglas was touched by the honor he received at the Yacht Club dinner.

According to the results of a 2011 Wish Impact Study that surveyed wish parents, health professionals, and Make-A-Wish volunteers, a wish come true empowers children with life-threatening medical conditions to fight harder against their illnesses.

"When wish kids are granted a wish, they get more than just a great experience for a day, two days, or a week," read promotional materials on the foundation's website. "That experience improves the quality of life for them and their entire family."

According to the foundation, health professionals treating Make-A-Wish recipients say their patients feel better and comply more readily with treatment protocols when they experience their wish come true.


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