By ANDREW HANSON
KEARNEY – While some students spent spring break at the beach or hanging out at home with family, five University of Nebraska at Kearney students spent their break giving back.
Five UNK students who are a part of the recently-created First Leaders organization traveled to Nashville, Tenn., March 20-24 in conjunction with one of the United Way’s alternative spring break trips.
“It’s like a mission trip without the church element,” said Brette Ensz, First Year Program assistant director and First Leaders adviser. “This is an alternative to the typical church mission trip experience and an alternative to the typical spring break experience.”
Instead of spending the week relaxing and soaking up the sun, Ryan Boyd of Merna, Taylor Janicek of Bridgeport, Amanda Kirkland of Kearney, Logan Krejdl of Aurora and Aaron McCauley of North Platte rolled up their sleeves and spent five days in Nashville giving back to the community.
The group worked with a local Boys and Girls Club, which included helping out around the facility and activities with kids. They cleaned the campsite in the nearby suburb of Fairview where they were housed, helping prepare the summer hotspot for the upcoming season.
“We were pushing bags full of concrete in wheelbarrows,” said Boyd, a sophomore. “We cleaned up trails and cut down tree branches. It was like a regular day of work back home, which made it comfortable for me.”
One of the first things the volunteers did was plant a community garden.
“Some people didn’t know how to garden. That was interesting because being from Nebraska it’s like second nature,” Boyd said.
Last year, Boyd and McCauley, a senior, went on a similar trip to Biloxi, Miss., over spring break.
“I just had a really good time there,” Boyd added. “That was why I went on this one, because I wanted to experience that again.”
While the trip was service oriented, the group of UNK students did have a free day to roam Nashville.
While the rest of the UNK contingency worked at another site, Boyd offered to help out at a local food bank along with a few students from Pennsylvania.
“We went to the food pantry, and they said they supplied for about 55 percent of the population in the area, which was mind boggling because there’s more than 10,000 people in the area,” Boyd said.
As the morning went along, Boyd restocked shelves and helped unload about 6,000 pounds of food from a delivery truck.
“I’m doing that and then some families walk in,” he said. “They walked in, and they were given a strict list of what they could get dependent upon family size and income. It was just really humbling being in there.”
When he assisted people with their groceries, passing out the allowed portions, Boyd said the impact of his service really hit home.
“It just struck me because my mom can go to the grocery store and grab whatever she wants,” he explained. “It really helped me appreciate everything I have. I feel like I take a lot of things for granted when it comes to shopping. It definitely made it all worth it.”
The concept of an alternative spring break trip resonates with the mission of the First Leaders organization, too.
“We focus on building leaders, but we want to create this service-mindedness. That’s why we partnered with the United Way on this,” Ensz said. “We want our leaders to not just be leaders within campus, but in the community. This was a way for our students to get the service aspect that you need to be a true holistic leader.”
Writer: Andrew Hanson, UNK Communications, 308.865.8454
Source: Brette Ensz, Assistant Director of First Year Programs, 308-865-8291, firstname.lastname@example.org