By Molly O'Brien-Foelsch
LEWISBURG, Pa. - Bucknell University senior Phil Kim is headed to the Caribbean for spring break. On his packing list: sunscreen, a beach towel and his iPod. But in addition to the usual leisure gear, Kim and the 14 other students will check into the airport with luggage full of donated toys, medical supplies and work clothes.
The students are traveling as team on behalf of A.C.E.S. Bucknell, a student-run group that organizes service trips to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. A.C.E.S. is one of several programs that give students the chance spend their week off from coursework learning more about the world and helping those in need. Other trips include the Memphis Civil Rights trip, the Habitat for Humanity trip, a Catholic Campus Ministries service trip and spiritual retreat, the Bucknell Brigade to Nicaragua and the geology field course.
Since 2005, Bucknell's Office of Multicultural Student Services has offered "The Unfinished Journey: Memphis Civil Rights Spring Break Trip." Participants travel to Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas to visit museums, view archival materials and meet with people who were involved in the Civil Rights movement.
"We'll talk with the people we meet about music, historical narratives and present-day efforts related to education, equity and racial reconciliation," said graduate student Lyndsay Adams, who coordinated the trip. "We already talked about readings and met with professors from sociology, music, economics and history. Once we're in the South, the students will make even more connections."
Through the service components of the trip, students will help the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association in Memphis with an artistic project, meet with troubled adolescents in the Memphis-based Youth Villages program, and help with an after-school program in Little Rock.
Fulfilling the dream of homeownership
The student-run campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity will work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. all week in Morgantown, W. Va., building a home for a family in need.
"The house we are building is already one-third finished," said student leader Jordan Makansi, a senior who's been involved with Bucknell's Habitat chapter since "day one" of his first year.
Makansi said he hopes that the students will leave with an increased awareness of service opportunities and service-related issues across campus.
"I want the students to realize that improving someone's quality of life - not fulfilling Greek requirements, not improving one's own reputation - is the ultimate motivator of community service," he said. || Read excerpts from Makansi's journal from the 2010 Habitat trip
Sustainability and spirituality
Six Catholic Campus Ministry students, along with Catholic Chaplain the Rev. Fred Wangwe and Assistant Catholic Campus Minister Suzanne Domzalski, are also headed to West Virginia, where they will spend the week at Nazareth Farm, a Catholic community and sustainable farm in the Appalachian Mountains. There, they will help to repair local homes, prepare the gardens for spring vegetable planting, hike the Appalachian Trail, and learn about the history and culture of Appalachia. They will also plan and participate in prayer services and quiet time.
"One of the unique aspects of this trip is that students are asked not to bring laptops, iPods, mp3 players, makeup, hair dryers, curling irons or bottled water," said Domzalski. "This is primarily to conserve resources and to cut down on disposable items. Equally important, however, is the opportunity that living more simply and electronic-free provides for developing friendships, deep conversation, self-reflection and appreciation of nature and each other."
Improving a clinic
Now in its 13th year, the Bucknell Brigade will again send a spring delegation of 20 students, two faculty members and two staff members to Nueva Vida, Nicaragua. The group will install security wire, prepare a new dental room and build an incinerator for a community clinic. Some of the students will work in the clinic, helping to distribute medications in the pharmacy and translating for the doctors. The group will also take time to learn about micro-enterprise initiatives, grassroots development, and the history and culture of Nicaragua.
"That should keep us all rather busy," said Paul Susman, professor of geography and co-leader of the group. "I find the Brigade trips to be rejuvenating. It is a wonderful opportunity to interact closely with all the participants -- students, other faculty/staff -- in a context where we support each other, work together and learn together about the world. The Brigade offers a chance to see how others in this world live and strive to improve their lives."
Deep in the heart of Texas
Since 2001, Bucknell's Department of Geology has offered a spring break field course for students to improve their technical field skills and explore geologic features outside of central Pennsylvania. This year, the group is headed to Big Bend National Park in West Texas.
"Students will collect measurements in the field for many hours a day for six days in a row, honing skills that are difficult to improve during briefer exercises in class or lab," said Jeffrey Trop, associate professor of geology.
According to Trop, the Big Bend area records a complex geologic history and includes diverse processes ranging from basin development and volcanism to metamorphism and structural deformation. Trop said he wants the students to focus on improving their field skills, but he also plans to raise discussions on some applied aspects of the area's geology, including hydrocarbon generation and exploration
"With these annual trips, we hope that students gain an appreciation for different ecologies and cultures by camping and hiking in remote parts of national parks and visiting important cultural sites," Trop said.
A common purpose
The trip leaders share a common goal in offering alternatives to the typical spring break - that time off from school doesn't have to mean time off from being engaged with the world.
"I hope that we get as much out of this experience as the people we serve do," said Kim, the student leader for the Dominican Republic trip. "I hope that both the Dominicans and Bucknell students are able to appreciate the fact that there exists a world out there beyond their own small communities. My simple goal is that the students will then bring that experience and share it with their friends and family, so that others may learn and be informed of the work that is happening."
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