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Ashford University Group Helps with Tornado Clean Up
Students, employees, and alumni travel to Fairdale, Ill. for tornado relief effort
A group of students and employees from Ashford University helped clean up in Fairdale, Ill. after the area was struck by a tornado earlier this month.

On Wednesday, April 15, Ashford University’s Office of Service and Leadership organized a trip to Fairdale, Ill. to help with tornado recovery efforts. The Ashford service team, which was initiated by concerned students, was one of the first relief groups allowed into Fairdale following the tornado that struck the area on April 9.

“Once I saw the devastation online on Friday, all I knew was that we needed to be there and do something,” said Elizabeth Nardi, an Ashford junior, who was one of the concerned students who helped coordinate the trip.

Audra Adams, manager of service learning at Ashford, knew right away that students would want to help in any way possible. “After all the storms cleared and reports of devastation were starting to show up on the news, I knew right away I would have students in my office asking about how Ashford could get involved. We held a sign-up and the first 12 students were allowed out of class to attend this meaningful and needed trip.” Several Ashford staff members accompanied the student volunteers and three Ashford alumni from the area met the group in Fairdale to assist.

The group cleaned out the basement of a home that was destroyed, searched for valuable items, raked yards, carried away debris, and were there to just listen to those who were impacted by the tornado less than a week earlier.

“I think there are miracles that happen through all the darkness that may be present in life,” Nardi said. “That day, we were the light to some of these homeowners. Seeing an entire neighborhood, literally, in pieces with memories scattered in between rubble was some of the hardest work we would do that day. Sure, our group did plenty of heavy lifting – from removing limestone blocks, housing debris, and chunks of trees – but it was the pictures that were damaged and the jewelry that was lost that made every step of ours a little slower just to make sure we didn't miss a memory hiding in the dirt or under a pile of sticks.”

Nicole Schmidt, vice president of the Student Service Advisory Board at Ashford, was also on the trip. “You go to help others, but at the end of the day, not only have you helped someone in need, you help yourself. Community service is one of the best aspects of Ashford because it improves the community as well as our students.”

Both Nardi and Schmidt have participated in several service trips with Ashford and are very active on campus. “To build a strong service program, you need students like these two to step up and lead the way,” Adams said. “I am blessed to work with these young women every day.”

Nardi said it best: “I can't explain every task we did that day or every individual story, but I can say that this trip changed me. In just seconds, your life can be flipped upside down or blown away. When this happens, yes, your belongings matter, but the people around you – family, friends, and maybe even people you don't know yet – are the things that truly matter and that will get you through.”

Ashford’s next service trip will be to Detroit, Mich. in May. Thirteen students and staff members will travel to the city to help rebuild blighted neighborhoods.


About Ashford University

Where heritage meets innovation – that’s Ashford University. At Ashford, students discover relevant degree programs, innovative technology, and cherished tradition. Ashford offers associates, bachelor’s, and master’s online degree programs, while the Clinton, Iowa campus offers bachelor’s programs. Whether on campus or online, Ashford students enjoy the same supportive community. For more information, please visit,,, or call Shari Winet, Vice President of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.