Gerry Stirtz
service-learning, 308.865.8957

While Cancun and other tropical spots may attract more spring break vacationers, a number of students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney will be devoting their break to alternative spring break service-learning trips.  
Students can choose from four trips with projects in New Orleans, St. Louis, Lower Brule, S.D., and Estes Park, Colo. The theme for trips this year is “An Exceptional Spring Break! Service-Learning to Meet Needs”.
According to Ryan Rodehorst, a UNK alumnus from Kearney who is coordinating the projects for UNK students, alternative spring break service-learning trips are activities that are alcohol-free and meant to strengthen communities while teaching students civic responsibility.

“These four trips provide a diversity of service-learning opportunities for the students. They can go to places big or small, to the city or the wilderness, to the coast or the country. They can mentor Native American youth, gut homes, build trails or feed the hungry,” Rodehorst said.
This is the fifth year service-learning trips have been offered at UNK, and Rodehorst said that usually only one location is picked for the trips, but four different destinations were selected this year.

“Usually we offer just one trip, but this year we are able to offer more, because of our good fortune in attracting committed and capable volunteer leadership,” Rodehorst said.
Leaders for the trips include Christopher Silva, graduate assistant for the Office of Residential and Greek Life; Annie Weaver, hall director for University Residence North; and Ryan Hare a political science major from Plano, Texas.

“Without Christopher Silva, Annie Weaver or Ryan Hare, none of this would be possible,” Rodehorst said. “Not only will they have more or less single-handedly planned their respective trip, but they will also participate in it and serve as its leader or co-leader.”

Silva will lead the trip to New Orleans, which will take place from March 10-17. Participants will assist with disaster recovery in Uptown Station along Simon Bolivar Ave. in New Orleans. 

“Silva led the disaster relief trip to New Orleans last year, and it was a great success,” Rodehorst said. “The students did their small part to help with a big need and had an eye-opening, life-changing experience in the process. This trip is perhaps even more important than the last, because although the need is almost as great, there is increasingly less interest and consequently less help.”

 Weaver will lead the service-learning trip to Brule, S.D., which will last from March 13-18. Those signed-up for this trip will mentor Native American youth and assist with Boys and Girls Club activities.  
Rodehorst said the South Dakota trip is a great service-learning opportunity, because of the poverty that exists on reservations and the lack of awareness regarding Native American issues and history.
Hare will lead the service-learning trip to St. Louis, which will begin on March 10 and end on March 17. Participants will assist a Campus Kitchens operation at St. Louis University.
Rodehorst said the St. Louis trip was planned through the Campus Kitchens Spring Break Exchange. He also said that the high interest in Campus Kitchens at UNK matched the St. Louis trip well.

“With the presence of a Campus Kitchens at UNK, and the high interest in, and need for what they do, offering this opportunity to our students made sense,” Rodehorst said.

The last trip, which Rodehorst will lead, will be a service-learning project for YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colo. Participants will perform trail maintenance and rebuilding for the organization March 10-17.
“This trip was chosen, because it focused on something different, namely, the environment,” Rodehorst said. “Environmental concerns are among the most serious we face, whether it’s pollution, global warming, over-consumption, threatened species and ecosystems, water scarcity, urban sprawl, or whatever the case may be. Therefore, it’s important to expose students to any sort of environmental issue, so that they will begin to think more about the environment.”
Students interested in participating in any of the alternative spring break service-learning trips have until Jan. 19 to register. Applications are available in the Office of Residential and Greek Life, or by contacting Rodehorst at 308.865.8930.
“The purpose of service-learning trips is for the students to help others and, in the process, themselves. Service-learning trips help enlarge a person’s world to new places, people and problems. And helping others provides an invaluable sense of purpose, accomplishment and satisfaction,” Rodehorst said.