As Centre College students recently returned from spring break, 13 of them are looking back on the life-changing experience they had during their Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to either Chicago or Rockwood, Tennessee.
“ASB is a way to engage our students in community service and an opportunity to explore issues of justice that impact our communities,” said Greg Chery, director of community service and the Bonner Program.
Led by Chery and Grace Nilsson, coordinator for student organizations and campus events, a total of seven students attended the trip in Chicago to the Brother David Darst Center for Justice & Peace, Spirituality & Education.
In Chicago, the students were introduced to the city, neighborhoods, people and the issues that impact its communities.
“Students engaged those entities through site visits during the week,” Chery said. “This trip was less focused on direct service but more service-learning, meaning that it is more focused on education and relationship building with organizations and the people they serve.”
Nilsson added that the purpose of the trip was to enlighten, educate and challenge students.
“We went to food pantries, learned about environmental racism and went to an immigration vigil,” she said. “These experiences are powerful on their own, but the staff at the Brother David Darst Center guided all of us through discussions about what societal issues create the necessity for these organizations.
“They aim to increase understanding about the ties that connect these organizations to the issues that they strive to alleviate, to other similar issues and to other people across the globe,” she continued.
Liz Brandt, Bonner Program and community service coordinator, and Margaret Kaus, coordinator for residence life and housing, led a group of six students in Rockwood, Tennessee to work with the Cumberland Trails Conference (CTC).
“With their guidance, our group built over 1,040 feet of the Cumberland Trail,” Brandt said. “This included pretty rigorous manual labor of removing leaf cover, digging out the duff (top layer of dirt), removing any rocks or stumps and using tools like mattocks to dig a level trail by cutting into the mountainside.
“I think we were all surprised at the level of physical intensity this work required,” she continued. “Every morning, we came back to camp and the CTC organized educational programs including a caving expert, a man who hiked the Appalachian Trail, a nonprofit that rescues injured birds of prey and a square dance.”
These trips help students learn more about communities that may differ from Danville’s and even their own home environments. Students are given the opportunity to engage with organizations and individuals who are working to address issues impact those communities.
“ASB is another opportunity for Centre to engage students outside of the classroom,” Chery added. “The learning at Centre is not only limited to the classroom but it is possible both on and off campus.
“Centre does a great job of providing its students with a well-rounded education,” he continued. “The classroom is not only in the Danville–Boyle County community but also abroad and domestically.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
April 6, 2018