When Juliet Turalski signed on to be an incoming-student orientation coordinator at Stevens Institute of Technology, helping new students deal with a hurricane was the furthest thought from her mind. But that didn’t matter to New Jersey Governor Christie when he honored her humanitarian efforts during Hurricane Irene at his recent Ceremony of Recognition in Trenton.
As an orientation coordinator, Turalski was responsible for planning the community service project that the incoming students would be encouraged to perform during orientation.
“It’s important for students to feel like they are a part of the Hoboken community, not just students in an isolated community,” said Turalski. “Stevens plans the orientation community service project to have the students start their time in Hoboken by helping the community. But little did we know when planning just how much help we would provide.”
The project, originally consisting of a day of park clean-up, was to take place on the last Saturday in August – the same Saturday that Hurricane Irene made landfall.
“We arrived at the Town Hall as originally planned, but we knew the day wouldn’t go as expected,” said Turalski. “The city was so grateful to see us and quickly assigned us to notify residents of the evacuation order to help the CERT (Certified Emergency Response Team) workers.”
Turalski and the 25 incoming-students and orientation staff that ended up joining the community service project that day stayed in constant contact with the CERT officials to coordinate the evacuation zones that needed to be notified. They covered all buildings from Grand Street to Harrison Street, from 1st Street to 8th Street. By the end of the day, the team had knocked on over 100 doors and notified a few hundred people that their neighborhood was under an evacuation warning because of the incoming hurricane.
“I felt like we had really made a difference in these residents’ lives, and in the lives of the CERT workers,” said Turalski. “At the time, I felt tired and had a mix of emotions because of the quick pace we had to follow and because of the inclement weather. Now looking back, I feel like it was an awesome experience and am glad the Stevens community was able to be a part of it.”
After the Governor’s Office got wind of Turalski’s part in the Irene evacuation notification efforts, she was invited to take part in the Ceremony of Recognition along with six other Hoboken residents who led emergency response teams that day. The ceremony took place in late-October.
“I feel proud to represent Stevens while receiving this honor,” said Turalski.
Would she do it again? “Absolutely,” she said, without hesitation. “We don’t realize how much damage a hurricane can cause, so it’s important to communicate the right information to the people who are in the most danger.”