Traditionally spring break is synonymous with warm weather, sunshine, beaches and parties, but through Ashland University’s Community Service office students have a chance to trade in those lounge chairs and pina coladas for hammers and nails and shingles and siding.
The Community Service Office’s “Alternative Spring Break” program offers a variety of mission trips for students, including a Habitat for Humanity trip to Columbus, Ga.
Becky Schaaf, director of Community Service, says, “I have seen a big increase in the students’ interest in service as a whole. It is really exploding on this campus.” This statement is tough to argue when looking back over the last several years. In March 2005, the trip consisted of just seven students and one staff supervisor compared to 36 students and four staff supervisors this year, offering the opportunity to build two houses for those less fortunate.
Many believe the increased interest seen on campus is a national trend as young people are volunteering and giving back more.
Dan Lawson, dean of Religious Life, agrees, “As for Ashland, we have been doing this for a long time now, so it is hard to gauge because our students seem to be inclined to give back and do community service. That being said, I believe we have seen an increase on our own service and mission trips as more students want to spend their spring break doing something meaningful.”
Jeff Alix, director of alumni and parent relations, participated in this Habitat for Humanity trip this past spring break.
“When I was asked to be a staff supervisor on the Habitat for Humanity trip I thought it would be a nice opportunity to volunteer and make a difference while working with students. It did not take long for me understand my opportunity was really a privilege.
The commitment, dedication and passion exhibited by the students were truly inspiring. Watching as they built, not one, but two houses for people they may never meet showed their tremendous character.
This character also was exhibited when rain did not allow us to build one morning and the students decided they still wanted to volunteer. Armed with trash bags they walked the streets of the neighborhood picking up trash from the sides of the roads. They could have easily slept in or sat around socializing until the weather cleared, but they went on this trip to make a difference and little did they know how far it would extend beyond the building of two homes.
It is often asked what the future holds for society and for our country. Seeing these wonderful students in action; I am now confident we are going to be in good hands.”