Student Staff Writer
Spring break conjures up images of college students traveling to sunny southern locations to party the week away, but for several groups of UNK students—Christian Student Fellowship (CSF), University Lutheran, the Office of Student Learning and UNK International Student Ministry—the week will be spent serving those less fortunate.
Sixty-eight students and sponsors from CSF plan to leave in the late afternoon on Friday,March 9. Their first stop is a church in Oklahoma to catch a few hours of sleep.
“We’ll load up sleeping bags early Saturday morning and travel the rest of the way to hopefully cross the border at Eagle Pass, Texas, before dark,” said Greg Swinney of CSF of Nebraska.
Spring break service trips for students are a long-standing tradition for CSF. The destination this year is a tri-city area of Mexico that serves Sabinas, Aguijita and Nueva Rosita. The group will be serving several churches as well as people in the communities throughout the week, Swinney said. Twenty-five students and adults from University Lutheran will be working in the community of Port Arthur, Texas, during the week. The adult sponsors and volunteers are from Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
A third ministry group, UNK International Student Ministry, is taking 15 students and sponsors to Kansas City for a week of volunteer work. The group will be hosted by a church in the Blue Springs area.
Four alternative spring break service-learning trips will take students to New Orleans, Estes Park, St. Louis and Lower Brule, S.D. The theme for the trips is “An Exceptional Spring Break!
Service-Learning to Meet Needs.” “Alternative spring break service-learning trips are activities that are alcohol-free and meant to strengthen communities while teaching students civic responsibility,” said Ryan Rodehorst, a UNK graduate and an Americorps VISTA member.
“These four trips provide a diversity of service-learning opportunities for the students,” he said. “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.”
“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,” he said.
Leaders for the trips include Christopher Silva, a graduate assistant in the Office of Residential and Greek Life; Annie Weaver, hall director for University Residence North; and Ryan Hare, a political science major.
“Without the three leaders, none of this would be possible,” Rodehorst said.“Not only will they have more or less singlehandedly planned their respective trips, but they will also participate in it and serve as its leader or co-leader.”
Silva will lead the trip to New Orleans where participants will assist with disaster recovery in Uptown Station along Simon Bolivar Avenue 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., where students will mentor Native American youth, and assist with Boys and Girls Club activities.
Rodehorst said that the South Dakota trip is an exceptional service-learning opportunity, because of the poverty that exists on reservations and the lack of awareness regarding Native American issues and history.
In St. Louis, participants will assist a Campus Kitchens operation at St. Louis University as part of the Campus Kitchens Spring Break Exchange.
‘With the presence of Campus Kitchens at UNK, and the high interest in and need for what they do, offering this opportunity to our students made sense,” he said.
The last trip, which Rodehorst will lead, will be a servicelearning project for YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park.
Participants will perform trail maintenance and rebuilding for the organization.
‘This trip was chosen, because it focused on something different, namely the environment,” he 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 environmental issues, so they will begin to think more about the environment.
“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 concluded.