Led by Springfield College Assistant Professor of Biology Melinda Fowler, seven undergraduate students will be learning about Native American culture on the Cheyenne Reservation in South Dakota over the next week as part of the Springfield College alternative summer break trip, similar to the alternative spring break trips that took place back in March.
Participants will be learning about the Native American culture and experiencing life in a nation that is part of, yet separate from, the United States. Participants will spend the week working on construction projects and volunteering at a summer camp. The reservation is 45 minutes away from the closest store, and, like many reservations, unemployment, poverty, mental illness, and addiction are major issues.
The South Dakota trip is one of five Springfield College alternative spring break program trips this year, with the previous four taking place in March. This program is part of a year-round mission at the College to give back to the local community and to communities throughout the world.
“The alternative spring break program continues to flourish at the College because of the dedication of our students wanting to give back, both in our local community and nationally as well,” said Director of the Center for Service and Leadership Charlene Elvers. “Students work extremely hard to organize and plan these trips. They host fundraisers throughout the academic year to assist with travel costs. I am very proud to be a part of this program.”
The mission of giving back to the community always remains a constant at Springfield College and Elvers continuously emphasizes to students that in order to be eligible for alternative spring break trips, they have to show a focus and commitment to local community engagement as well.
Alternative Spring Break Trips
In March, a delegation led by Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper visited with Mitch Albom's "Have Faith Haiti Mission." The Springfield College Student Homecoming Staff built 50 stuffed animals each with a Springfield College t-shirt and message to Albom's kids in Haiti. The delegation personally delivered the stuffed pals.
For the third straight year, a group of students provided service within our own community of Springfield, while educating participants on ways to give back to the community. This year's focus was to become more aware of the homeless and refugee population and how the College can provide aid through working with different organizations through the city of Springfield. Each day the group partnered with a different agency in a different Springfield neighborhood in an effort to understand first-hand the challenges faced by the community and opportunities to have an impact on the lives of so many.
Working with Habitat for Humanity in Georgetown, Del., participants spent five days working on a Collegiate Challenge build project and assisted with the construction of affordable housing options for low-income families. This project is unique in that the build is completed solely by college students from around the nation. Participants will be housed within the community and will dine in fellowship with the community. At the end of the build, a family who has contributed “sweat equity” will be afforded the opportunity for home ownership – a dream of many. College students will get the chance to learn about the barriers to home ownership and how this one seemingly small change can have a ripple effect for a family, a community, and a nation.
In Houston, Texas, a group was afforded with opportunities to challenge perspectives and participate in efforts to humanize, work with, and learn more from those affected by natural disasters. The group partnered not only with local organizations, but with our Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS) campus in Houston.
“There is always a lot of anticipation each year and to have the opportunity to watch our students acting so selflessly is so enjoyable to watch,” said Elvers, who led the group to Haiti. “This week of service is just one example of the community engagement efforts Springfield College remains committed to, but giving back truly does take place year-round on the campus.”