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UCR Student Volunteers in Hurricane Relief

UCR Student Dexter Thomas Goes to Help Hurricane Victims

Red Cross advises him to prepare for images worse than those on TV

(September 12, 2005)

Dexter ThomasEnlarge

Dexter Thomas

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- UC Riverside student Dexter Thomas, 20, says it was both instinct and heritage that prompted him to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

With a father who is a native of Louisiana, and with relatives scattered throughout the south, Thomas left Friday night on a flight to Montgomery, Ala. as a volunteer with the Red Cross. From there he will go where he’s needed in one of the hurricane ravaged areas. As far as he knows, none of his extended family members were harmed by the hurricane and its aftermath.

“I had been kind of monitoring what’s going on,” Thomas said Friday evening, three hours before his flight. “At first, when the hurricane hit, it didn’t seem quite as major as people thought it would be, but pretty soon it was obvious there were big problems. I think it’s clear that this is not only the biggest natural disaster of our time in this country, but also the biggest man-made disaster.”

Thomas went to the Red Cross office and committed to becoming a volunteer. “I was waiting, hoping they would call me, and a few days later, I got the call saying, ‘We want you on a plane.’ It’s obviously kind of hectic down there, so as soon as I land in Alabama, I could be sent off to Baton Rouge or somewhere else.”

Thomas says he doesn’t know what his duties will be, though he guesses he could end up handling food or driving trucks.

“We had a brief training session, and said they would love to tell us what we could expect down there, but they couldn’t, and we should prepare ourselves for far, far worse than what we’ve seen on television,” he said.

Thomas is the music director for KUCR 88.3, the campus radio station, so he will also be monitoring the situation as a journalist. He says he hopes to interview some of the students at Tulane University who were affected by the tragedy.

“I’ll be there primarily to help, though,” he said. “I want to lend a hand.”
The San Bernardino native graduated from Cajon High School, and enjoys interests in world cultures, ethnic music and meeting people. Thomas says he hopes to meet up with Crystal Parker, a fourth-year music major at UC Riverside, who is also somewhere on the ground in one of the stricken areas. Thomas has been unable to contact her by telephone.

A few hours before leaving, Thomas was at a local sporting goods store, buying last-minute supplies. “They told us to bring a backpack and a change of clothes,” he said. “I’m taking along a cell phone and a portable e-mail device, but it’s unclear if they will work there.”

As for his return, Thomas says he expects to be back before school starts at UCR Sept. 28. "But because of the way things are, there are no guarantees,” he said.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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