Personal growth during fall break

maineStory by Kirsten Fedorowicz, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Dana Van-Huis

For most Aquinas students,fall break means going home, lounging around, and catching up on sleep. As much as I enjoyed hanging out in my childhood room in pajamas, I admire the Aquinas students who take the fall break opportunity to wear their warmest leggings and hiking boots. These students hit the road, often driving for hours squished together in large vans, to do service in places with beautiful scenery, taking the lack of homework as time for personal growth.

Service learning trips are Aquinas’ answer to “alternative breaks,” and are offered for both fall break and spring break. In the Fall, students can take the opportunity to travel to places such as Maine to work on National Parks, South Dakota to learn about Native American Reservations, farms in West Virginia to look at Appalachian rural poverty, as well as others. If staying in the States isn’t your jam, there is a medical trip to the Dominican Republic during this time as well.

Service learning trips are designed to widen student perspective; to travel, learn, and appreciate the world around them. They come highly recommended by many students as an integral part of the Aquinas experience.

Ali Barr, a Senior, went on the service trip to South Dakota. She described the trip as “ an immersion into the Oglala Lakota Native’s culture on the Pine Ridge Reservation.”

“We spent the whole week learning from the Lakota’s about their cultures, hardships, beliefs, and ways of life while participating in service projects,” Barr said. 

Being around the Lakota tribe allowed Aquinas students to explore the beautiful scenery of South Dakota, including the expansive, rocky landscape of the Badlands. However, this immersion process allows students to be so much more than tourists.

Barr said, “The Natives of this country have be shut down time and time again throughout the course of their history, yet they are still so loving and open, it breaks my heart to know their fight is still not over. This trip is so important is because now we have the responsibility to share the stories, hardships, and culture that the Oglala Lakota people have.”

Service learning trips also serve as a chance to build community between different personalities and backgrounds, even within the service group. There is often time set aside for reflections and discussion, allowing students to grow in whatever faith tradition they come from.

When they come back from their trips, students have many stories to tell, both from people they may have met and their own adventures. Service learning trips make for good facebook pictures of scenery and selfies, but they also symbolize a much greater growth for members of the Aquinas Community.

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