Students Plan Service-Oriented ‘Alternative’ Spring Breaks

Spring break is traditionally the time when college students go someplace warm, kick back, and relax for a few days.  Some Southeast Missouri State University students, however, have chosen a different path this year, and will instead spend their time off working in service to others. For the second year in a row Southeast Serves is sponsoring a spring break trip.  This year students will make the 90-minute drive to Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park. Ten students, working in conjunction with the American Hiking Society, will spend the week performing trail maintenance tasks on the Mina Sauk Trail within the park.  Trail maintenance tasks will include lopping, removing limbs and debris, dirt work, hanging tags on trees, removing rocks from the trail, and hiking the trail for GPS coordinates. [caption id='attachment_24978' align='alignright' width='300'] Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park[/caption] “We will be hiking up to five miles on work days to complete these tasks,” said Pamela Avila, graduate assistant for student engagement with Southeast Serves.  “A free day is also built into our schedule where we hope to visit Elephant Rocks and enjoy dinner in one of the surrounding communities.” Southeast’s Rock Climbing Club will also be hiking over spring break, but they are heading to the western United States. “Ten of our students will be driving more than 4,000 miles making several stops along the way” said Matthew Libby, Coordinator of Facilities and Programs for Southeast’s Department of Recreation Services.  “Rock climbing is a test of mind over matter.  The students will work on their climbing and leadership skills while experiencing the beauty of our national parks,” he said. Southeast’s Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) is sending students on an “alternative” spring break, working with the Missionaries of Charity in Chicago.  Addie Harris, CCM student apostolate president, and Cook Stone, a Southeast student who went on the same mission trip last year, will be among the 12 Catholic students volunteering alongside nuns from the religious order established by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “While in Chicago we will be staying with the Missionaries of Charity in a small neighborhood about 20 minutes outside of downtown. Every day there will be a morning Mass at 7 a.m., then breakfast, then we will head to the Missionaries’ soup kitchen where we will help prepare the food and serve it to those in need,” said Stone. On Wednesday, the students will also help the Missionaries prepare food bags that are delivered to those who are homeless and living on the streets of downtown Chicago. Deacon Tom Schumer, director of CCM, added, “Our students are able to participate in serving the food to the poorest of the poor, and in many cases, this may be the only nutritious food the recipients have for days at a time. The opportunity to witness such poverty and experience the joy and gratitude of the homeless is truly life changing.” For students staying closer to campus during Spring Break, the Baptist Student Center (BSC) is hosting a day-long mission trip to work with the Bosnian Food Mission in south St. Louis.  The trip continues the BSC's 10-year tradition of working with the Food Mission, which is dedicated to serving refugees and immigrants in the St. Louis area.  The group will depart from the Baptist Student Center at about 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, and return later that evening. “We will relieve the volunteers at the Food Mission who help sort and distribute food Saturday mornings” said Bruce Gentry, BSC advisor.  After their volunteer service, the group will spend some time at the St. Louis Zoo. “It’s a very family-friendly mission trip,” said Gentry.  “We have a few seats left!' he added.  'I hope more students will join us.” Students preparing for these spring break trips expressed commitment to serving others, both inside and outside the Southeast community. “Southeast promotes a culture of service” said Avila.  “Alternative spring break opportunities are one way that our students engage with important issues in the world beyond our campus.”