By Kayla Hedman ’14 / Champlain College News
BURLINGTON, VT – Service in Action Trips (SAT), formerly known as Alternative Spring Break, are great opportunities for students to volunteer during a time where their peers usually choose recreational vacations. Instead, they prefer to do something productive, inspiring, educational, and immerse themselves in a different community’s culture.
“This is a conscious decision students make for various reasons,” said AmeriCorps Vista and Champlain alumni, David Madonna ’11. The past two summers, Madonna has traveled to Tanzania with Champlain’s Center for Service & Civic Engagement (CSCE); and he also went to Nicaragua last year with his Human Rights class co-taught by Kyle Dodson, director of the CSCE.
“Community service is not all about helping people, but building connections with them and getting involved in that particular community and the people in it,” Madonna said. “It is important to experience that community with an open mind and absorb all of the information you can. You can then use that knowledge to share stories; you never know who will be inspired to take further action or to participate in that community themselves. This reputation is what keeps service trips continuing year after year at Champlain.”
This year, a group of eight students, two of which are student leaders, and two AmeriCorps VISTAS currently serving in Champlain’s Center for Service Office will spend their spring break (March 4-10) in a impoverished rural community in Exmore, Va. Within Exmore is the New Road community, which until 2000 did not have indoor lavatories or a sewage system.
New Road native, Ruth Wise, returned home after attending college in 1992 and committed herself to developing the town. She created the New Road Community Development Group, with a mission to give new pride to a community isolated for over a century. This group has an incredible reputation and invites service groups from colleges and universities across the nation each year to help with home renovations, community outreach, and short-term mentor projects within the local schools. In addition, students will eat dinner each night with the community members and attend other community events.
Last year, the Service in Action trip was to Lexington, Va., where a dozen Champlain students served at Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity. Liz Muroski ’11 published a blog about her experience for a class, “The last day of Habitat was very surreal. The time had gone by so quickly but, we had accomplished so much and we definitely grew stronger as a team and as individuals. This experience was one of the best I ever had and I am so fortunate that I got to be a part of it.” Many students who go on Service in Action Trips come out with a similar positive experience, always eager to hear about the next opportunity to do service.
Many college students, including Angie Cummings ‘13, agree that recreational spring breaks are stressful and unrealistic in today’s economic climate. “I’ve done the whole California vacation thing and have had friends splurge on all-inclusive ski and ride spring break trips, for example, Collegefest at Mont Tremblant in Quebec. I just don’t see the whole ‘spring break party’ being realistic anymore. Been there, done that.” Her response to the alternative: “Why not go on a Service in Action Trip? You get to go to a desirable (preferably warm) location with some of your best friends and the school organizes most of the travel plans and other pesky details.”
There are many other benefits to service in action trips. “Service in action trips are a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, meet new friends, expand interests, feel fulfilled, uplifted and refreshed, and build your service resume,” said sophomore Hannah Andersen, “It’s a win-win.” New Road Community Development Group will be her first service in action trip with Champlain, but she has been affiliated with the Center for Service for the past two years.
For more information on the New Road Community Development Group and director Ruth Wise, please visit http://www.leadershipforchange.org/awardees/awardee.php3?ID=35
For more information on opportunities like SAT sponsored by Champlain’s Center for Service & Civic Engagement, visit go.champlain.edu/service
About Champlain College
Since 1878, Champlain College has provided career-focused education to students from its hilltop campus in Burlington, Vt. Champlain's distinctive educational approach embodies the notion that true learning only occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain offers traditional undergraduate and online undergraduate courses, along with online certificate and degree programs and eight master's degree programs. Champlain offers study abroad programs at its campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain College will be included in the Princeton Review's "best colleges" guidebook, "The Best 376 Colleges: 2012 Edition." Champlain was named a "Top-Up-and-Coming School" by U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges" and was ranked in the top tier of 2012 Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu.