Spring break an opportunity for service

Story by Cassidy Myers

For many students at Drake University, spring break is a time to kick back and relax on a warm sunny beach or catch up with old friends from home.

For the students who went on Drake’s alternative spring break it was an opportunity for community engagement and service-learning.

Nine students and one staff member traveled to Tucker, and partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help with home renovations.

The group worked mostly on a rehab project involving a house built in 1947 that an Ethiopian family would be living in.

They replaced windows, a door, repaired drywall and worked on some landscaping.

Assistant Director of Community Engagement and advisor of the trip Renee Sedlacek emphasized that the trip was about more than manual work on the houses.

“We explored issues of immigration and refugees, poverty and affordable housing but then we also implemented tracking our carbon imprint,” Sedlacek said. “That introduces a whole other lens of sustainability.”

Senior Emily Wilkins acted as student leader and helped plan some of the logistics of the trip.

She said the group used a 15-passenger van borrowed from the environmental science department to travel to Tucker and that much of the trip was financed though the Doug Allen Fund which was meant to be used for domestic service trips.

The trip brought together a variety of students, many of whom had never met before.

“The best part of the trip is seeing students that would not normally interact with each other come together for a common purpose,” Sedlacek said.

Wilkins agreed that the trip was a way to bring people together.

“It was a good combination being with nine other people who were also passionate about service and making a difference and also getting to know new people,” Wilkins said.

First-year Bryann Sullivan used the trip as a way to step out of her comfort zone.

“It was a great opportunity to broaden my horizons while helping people and giving me the opportunity to make new friends,” Sullivan said.

The trip wasn’t all about work, though.

Wilkins said the group still had time to go to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Centennial Olympic Park, two concerts and eat out a couple of times, including a meal at a southern restaurant.

Sedlacek hopes the experience will have long lasting effects on students.

“We can do only so much work in one week,” Sedlacek said. “Often times, participants will receive far more than they can give in that because we’re only available for a week. It’s often what they do with it once they return that matters.”

In order to continue the kind of work they discussed during the trip, the group has decided to use the rest of the money to purchase carbon offsets.

Sedlacek said the donation, which will be enough to offset the group’s carbon footprint during the trip, could go towards something such as the planting of new trees.

For those who find themselves without plans for next year this alternative spring break may be the kind of experience many students are looking for.

“I loved having the opportunity to travel somewhere outside of Des Moines and still get the experience of helping people,” Sullivan said. “I would encourage other people to go on this trip because it’s really eye opening and you get to learn a lot about being involved in a community and how you can help.”

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