Students serve, study over spring break

Andrew Henderson

For many students, spring break consisted of selfies on the beach and relaxing under the sun, but for others it consisted of selfless service and relaxing under the shade of the Lincoln Memorial.   

The Department of Student Activities offers students the opportunity to take alternative trips through the Leadership and Volunteerism committee. This year, eight students traveled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to work with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, and another eight students traveled to Washington D.C. for a cultural experience of our nation’s capitol. 

Andrew Rash served as a coordinator for the D.C. trip and is coordinator with the Leadership and Volunteerism committee. Rash highlighted several of the trip’s cultural experiences: going to Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, Holocaust Museum and a tour of the Capitol building. Students also met with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and were allotted time to ask the senator questions. 

“It is a cultural, educational and service trip all rolled into one,” Rash said. 

For Alejandra Valadez Rodriguez, a junior from Mexico, it was the cultural aspect of the trip that appealed the most. Valadez Rodriguez said she wanted to know more about the history surrounding D.C., especially the history surrounding the district’s many monuments. She recalled going to the Pentagon and standing at the site where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building during the September 11 attacks. 

“I definitely appreciate the history more and the remembrance that freedom isn’t really free,” she said. 

In contrast, Nashville sophomore Salvador Hernandez said the service aspect of the trip is what stood out most to him. The students worked with non-profit organization A Wider Circle, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

The website for A Wider Circle cites their mission, “to end poverty for one individual and one family after another.”  One of the programs the organization offers is the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program, which provides home goods to families transitioning out of bad situations.  

Hernandez said he aided in this effort by organizing the area where the items were located, certifying working items and unloading heavy items. Later that day, Hernandez and other students reflected on their work done at A Wider Circle and he said that nobody in the world should have to go through what these people have, and that everyone needs an opportunity. 

“If everybody pitches in a little then we can do a lot to help,” he said.

Students who traveled to Tuscaloosa were also pitching in to help. Laura Johnson, graduate assistant with student activities, was one of the coordinators for the trip. Johnson said the area was devastated by a tornado that came through three years ago and left many homes in disarray. The house they worked on belonged to Mattie Johnson, dubbed Ms. Mattie. 

“I think it’s a great experience for any student to go on a service trip,” she said.

Louisville junior Rachel B yrd said the alternative break was something she had never done before. While her previous breaks consisted of going to the beach, she said this one was spent putting in new drywall and repainting the bathroom of Ms. Mattie’s home. 

“It opened my eyes. I’m very lucky to have what I have,” Byrd said. 

Byrd said the group also traveled to cultural sites such as the Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham and took a tour of the University of Alabama. She said they also caught the basketball game between WKU and UAB.

“[It was] definitely a wonderful experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone,” Rodriguez said.