Spring break is traditionally a time to hit the road-or the air-and forget about schedules for a week while doing something amazing. For a number of HWS students, “amazing” is being able to make a positive impact on someone else’s life in just two short weeks. The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) offers students the chance to spend their spring break in an area of need through a variety of Alternative Spring Break (ASB) programs.
This past year, trips included service projects at Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton, N.C.; Pocahontas State Park in Va.; Washington, D.C.; Rural and Migrant Ministry in Lyons, N.Y.; and Freshwise Farm in Penfield, N.Y. Also this spring, the ASB team began a new program with partner organization Amizade, in Petersfield, Jamaica. The programs are sponsored in part by CCESL but require funds from the individual for travel, lodging and meals.
As the submission dates for the 2013 programs come to a close, Community Service House resident Liz Szwejbka ’14 recalls the great experiences she had on her ASB trip and how it led her to plan for a life of consequence.
Szwejbka began taking trips with CCESL and ASB during her first-year at the Colleges. When her original plan to go to Nicaragua with the program fell through, Jeremy Wattles, assistant director of CCESL, encouraged Szwejbka to look into domestic programs. Szwejbka was accepted to the program in North Carolina and never looked back.
“In North Carolina we worked at Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warren County which is the second poorest county in the state,” explains Szwejbka, noting many of the children are exposed to gang culture even as elementary students and the need for role models and caring adults is strong.
Having formed a strong attachment to the children she worked with as a classroom aid over spring break, Szwejbka decided to return to Mariam Boyd her sophomore year. “I feel that I have a duty to these children now, to encourage them and to show them that they are worth returning for,” she said. “I ultimately want to show them how much faith I have in all of them to succeed and how much I love them and how special they all are to me.” She returned to the school and worked with the same students in their fourth grade class.
Szwejbka hopes to return to the school this winter break for a visit and then in the spring as well. She says the ASB program “really changed my life and opened my eyes to problems that exist outside the bubble of HWS.”
The photo above features HWS students at work in the classroom at Mariam Boyd Elementary School.