Students use alternative spring break to give back

Mercury Bowen, Verge Reporter

Several Eastern students chose to spend spring break giving back through the Alternative Spring Break program sponsored by the Newman Catholic Center.

Groups of Eastern students went to Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, Missouri, Georgia, and Tennessee to help communities by volunteering for local projects. The tasks included anything from volunteering at a mission center to helping build houses.

One of the main points of the Alternative Spring Break was the #Disconnect 2 Reconnect push. The idea behind this was for students going on the trips to disconnect from social media and possible drama at home. While being able to better connect with themselves and the people the students were working with.

Sarah Wirtz, one of the group leaders, said it was difficult at first to set aside the cell phones, but after a few days everyone really started to connect. She said there were students from Eastern as well as another university so, she was able to make connections that she would not have made otherwise.

Wirtz has been involved with the Newman Catholic Center for four years and has done many volunteer projects through the center. Wirtz lead a group of students that volunteered in Maryville, Tennessee building houses.

She said that this experience does make an impact on the people’s lives.

“It makes you put everything into perspective,” Wirtz said.

Another thing she took away from the experience was how grateful the people were for the students had chosen to give up their spring break to devote time to the causes.

One example she gave was of an older woman who was unable to afford to build a house because she needed several surgeries. Wirtz said that helping that woman made her realize that she doesn’t have it that bad at all.

Another group of Eastern students went to the White Violet Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. Group leader Emily Brelsfoard said that the center’s mission was all about Ecospirituality, which is combining faith and the environment.

“Everything was all organic, so we helped plant seeds and shoveled some alpaca poop,” Brelsfoard said laughing.

The trip was a big success according to Brelsfoard. She said the students had completed a large task the center needed done by the last day of the trip which mad the students feel very accomplished after that.

“It’s sometimes hard, you can feel like you go on these trips and didn’t really do much,” Brelsfoard said, “but we all worked so hard.”

Brelsfoard said that the reason she went on her first trip three years ago because a friend asked her to. She had such a positive experience then that she has continued to go on trips, having been on three before this year’s Alternative Spring Break.

“It’s such an awesome experience to be able to show Christ to other people,” Brelsfoard said.

Both Wirtz and Brelsfoard said that they would like to have this experience again, however both will be graduating before the next trip.

“If someone has the opportunity to go on an Alternative Spring Break trip I highly recommend it,” Wirtz said, “because not only are you giving back you also get to meet people from this campus that you otherwise wouldn’t have met.”

“Everyone should do it once if they have never tried it,” Brelsfoard said, “It’s a great experience and there’s really nothing like it.”

Mercury Bowen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]