Texas A&M University students are known for having a strong tradition of community service, and that commitment will be evident on several fronts when thousands of Aggies take off for spring break next week.
When most people think of “college students” and “spring break,” they picture crowded beaches filled with partying students – and some Aggies will certainly join them – but for other Aggies, it’s an opportunity to take a break from their academic responsibilities to help others. And many of these students will return from spring break service projects and immediately start gearing up to take part in Big Event, the largest one-day student-run service project in the nation, scheduled for March 23.
Texas A&M even has a student organization called “Alternative Spring Break” that was formed in 2000 just for the purpose of providing students the opportunity to serve others during their week away from campus. Several groups of Aggies will pay their own way to travel to various places around the country to volunteer their services.
Although no central clearing house exists to keep track of all of the spring break and year-around service projects being undertaken by Aggies — in many cases, they just do them without public notice or fanfare — several student projects are noted here.
In Little Rock, Ark., one group of students will work with World Services for the Blind to learn how to properly care for the blind and aid in facility maintenance. At Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, students will spend the week doing cave restoration and working to preserve endangered plant and wildlife species. Still another group will continue with ongoing projects in Biloxi, Miss., rebuilding hurricane-damaged homes. Another group will work in Biloxi classrooms as volunteers.
The Texas A&M Navigators, an Aggie Christian organization, will work near Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs, Colo. The facility is a conference center that survived the wildfires, but the slopes above the center were burned. To prevent catastrophic flooding, the students will work on fire reclamation in the hills above the center.
Still other Aggies will travel to St. Joseph, Mo.,, to help build or rehabilitate homes for families in need of affordable housing. The students are participating in Habitat for Humanity’s program called Collegiate Challenge.
Rachael Cadena, a campus minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, an Aggie Catholic student organization, and Fr. Will Straten will lead a group of students into the mountains of Honduras to work with a group called the Missioners of Christ. It does many different projects helping the poor there and assisting the priests in ministering to the people in remote villages and holding fun learning sessions for children.
She says other students will join in the annual medical mission to Guatemala sponsored by St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in College Station. In addition, a group of students will go to Joplin, Mo., to do tornado relief work in conjunction with a group called Project 195. Another group will spend their break on a spiritual retreat with the Sisters of Life in New York.
Several Memorial Student Center Freshmen Leadership Organizations will once again travel to Costa Rica. The 30 students will help with rain forest preservation and will volunteer at a local elementary school. At the school, they will teach the students English. They also will build a greenhouse for the school so the students will be able to grow fruits and vegetables.
“I am personally looking forward to working with such a large group of college students who share the same vision of wanting to serve on the global scale,” says Kerry Pewitt, a junior from Allen, Texas, who is one of the organizers of the trip.
The Texas A&M Center in Mexico City and the university’s Soltis Center in Costa Rica have also given Aggies participating in several study-abroad programs an opportunity to serve the communities where the two centers are located. The students joined forces with Habitat for Humanity Mexico in organizing a construction project and they also work as tutors for children in the communities near the centers.
In another Habitat for Humanity project closer to the campus and started earlier, students in the Bush School of Government and Public Service initiated work on the Bush Habitat for Humanity House in Bryan in honor of President George H.W, Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush. The students raised $40,000, raised the house’s first wall and will work on the structure through spring break. The house is set to be dedicated May 11 – the day after the students will graduate.
While their excursion doesn't fall in the community service category, the Aggies venturing the greatest distance from Aggieland over the spring break will be members of the Corps of Cadets who will go to Germany and Poland on what is described as a “high-impact learning opportunity” designed to expose them to the diplomatic, informational, military, economic, cultural and religious aspects of the region they will be visiting.
Two excursions to Germany and Poland are planned, with the first occurring during spring break and the second planning trips to China and Taiwan in May. More information is available at facebook.com/corps.global.
Other Aggies, individually and in groups, will work with churches, community action agencies and charities as they live out the university’s core values of leadership, excellence, integrity and selfless service.
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