During last month’s week-long spring break, six HWS students decided that instead of breaking out their bathing suits, they would roll up their sleeves. For eight days in March, seniors Christina Kinnevey and Cathleen Zupan, junior Samuel Georgian, and first-years Lauren Schwarzenberg, Alyse DiCenzo and Joseph Yanaitis, drove to St. Louis, Missouri, to join more than 100 other students from around the U.S. in the City Lights Program. Sponsored and run by the National Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the group assisted in various service projects from tutoring to environmental clean up.
“The poverty, stories of violence, corruption and desperation that existed in St. Louis was like nothing I have ever heard or seen in any other city in the States,” said Kinnevey. “This project provided me with a greater awareness of the need that exists within our own borders and what it means to really go out and help people.”
City Lights is a not-for-profit organization aimed at drawing college students toward a lifetime of service and justice. By tapping into their education and career experiences, volunteers are expected to work through the framework of the Gospel in the homes and neighborhoods of urban St. Louis, and then continue this service in the myriad of places they return to when they leave. Additionally, in cooperation with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the program hosts a series of training programs in urban leadership and biblical discipleship for college students.
For the HWS group, projects included tutoring, cleaning out a stream, helping widows with tasks in their homes, spraying for mold in houses that were affected by recent floods, construction work, and working with refugees displaced from all over the world.
Recalling a particularly enlightening encounter with a Nepali refugee, Georgian says, “This man loved his life, and loved God, and his compassion was overwhelming. His first thoughts are to enjoy life, praise God, and help those around him,” he continued. “Headed back to New York, my prayer was simple. That we could all learn to be a little more like him – happy and generous with what we have in life.”
This City Lights trip is one of many Alternative Spring Break opportunities for HWS students to travel off campus, do service work together, and reflect more deeply on themselves and societal issues.
“I went in expecting to be challenged and that expectation was more than exceeded,” concluded Kinnevey. “I was inspired and I returned with a new energy – I am excited to be able to dedicate myself fully to service in my AmeriCorps job next year.”