Alternative spring breakers skip partying, help others

Senior Chelsey Crawford and juniors Joe Krajcik and Kevin Finn work on the roof of a house in New Orleans.Senior Chelsey Crawford and juniors Joe Krajcik and Kevin Finn work on the roof of a house in New Orleans.

Nearly six years after Katrina hit New Orleans, victims of the hurricane are still struggling, and Mercyhurst students were recently there to help.

Forty-one Mercyhurst College faculty members and students participated in alternative spring break trips this year, choosing not to party and to help the less fortunate instead.

The students who participated in the New Orleans trip explored the French Quarters, weatherproofed a Habitat for Humanity house, and helped complete projects around Camp Hope, a former school building where Habitat for Humanity provides low-cost housing for volunteers.

The “urban immersion” trips to Baltimore and Camden allowed students to provide hands-on service and empathy to “poor and marginalized people in a variety of settings,” according to Campus Ministry Director Gregory Baker.

Campus Ministry, Habitat for Humanity and Service Learning coordinated to plan three trips. Sixpeople traveled to Baltimore, Md.; four people traveled to Camden, N.J.; and 31 people traveled to New Orleans, La.

“We had the opportunity to build a house for a family who was a victim of Katrina,” senior Laura Stevens, who went to New Orleans said. “Our group mostly focused on waterproofing the house, which means putting in windows, tar paper and shingling the roof, and wrapping the house.”

“(The homeowner) shared his story with us while we worked and it reminded me why we were there and how much of an impact we were having on someone else’s life,” senior Jill Marshall, who also traveled to New Orleans, said.

“The whole trip was an incredible experience that will stay with me forever. I met amazing people, made new friends, learned new things and helped a stranger regain hope and a home.”

Baker encourages students to participate in alternative spring break trips, citing their affordability and popularity on the Mercyhurst campus.

“Habitat for Humanity trip fills to capacity each year. Students actually line up early on a winter morning each year to secure their space for the trip,” Baker said.

“Go. Try something new! Take a risk. These trips are fantastic for so many reasons,” Baker said.

“They offer an opportunity to bond with a small group of students who are committed to serving others. They allow people to see, hear and touch the reality of the poor in our midst, and they offer powerful opportunities to reflect on these experiences, moving beyond service to ask the tough questions of social justice.”

A final trip is planned for after graduation this year for two weeks in Guyana, South America. Any student can participate in these trips, and scholarships are available. If you have interest in alternative break trips, please contact Service Learning or Campus Ministry.

Mercyhurst student volunteers in New Orleans.Mercyhurst student volunteers in New Orleans.

Students at work.Students at work.

Jill Marshall photo.Jill Marshall photo.