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MC students stayed close to home for this year's ASB

Barry McNamara
MC students Jacob Hutton, Rachael Laing, Zach Brand and Sara Frakes are pictured in the front row. Jake McLean is at the far right in the back row, seated next to the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, MC’c chaplain, who led the Alternative Spring Break trip along with Billy Bernard (far left).
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Monmouth College students are exposed to the local community in a variety of ways, most notably through the capstone course in citizenship they take in their senior year.
Five students experienced another example of local citizenship last month, taking part in an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program in their own backyard.
“It takes lots of resources, such as gas and meals, to go on trips to help communities away from home,” explained the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, MC’s chaplain, who along with Billy Bernard, assistant director of Greek life, leadership and involvement, led this year’s ASB. “It’s nice sometimes to take our resources and put them back into the community while getting to know our neighbors a little better. Sometimes our students don’t realize our neighbors are not as well off as they are in college.”
The students who participated were Zach Brand of Ottawa, Sara Frakes of Carthage, Jacob Hutton of Sherrard, Rachael Laing of Buffalo Grove and Jake McLean of Silvis. They were joined by four adults from Sugar Tree Grove Presbyterian Church, who provided skilled labor.
From March 8 through 13, the group worked at a trailer park off Sunnylane Drive on the west side of Monmouth, doing such projects as laying a new floor and installing a ceiling fan, which was the tenant’s “dream” addition to her home. They also helped with Strom Center’s thrift shop and with its Meals on Wheels program. Ott called the latter experience, which involved delivering meals to shut-ins, “eye-opening” for the students.
“Helping the Meals on Wheels program showed me the people in the town who don’t have any family around, or don’t get out of their house very often,” said McLean.
Each night, there was an educational program, and the group would discuss the highs and lows of the day.
“We had a theme of focusing on poverty and privilege,” said Ott. “We did an exercise to bring awareness to the privilege we’re born into. We also watched a video, ‘The Line,’ which helped to break down stereotypes. One of the people profiled was a successful banker who took an economic risk. Through a perfect storm of wrong timing and circumstances, he lost it all. That tapped into the students’ anxiety – any of us can have the bottom drop out on us.”
“After participating in last year’s ASB program I was excited to stay in Monmouth and help the community that I spend so much time in,” said McLean. “To see an older woman that we helped walk across her new floor in her trailer, and to see the relief come over her was just a fantastic experience.” 
“There are people who are in need in the community,” added Frakes. “Around campus, it is difficult to see, but some of our neighbors really need help financially and through service.”
The group did have the opportunity to leave Monmouth for some more traditional Spring Break activities, having an “afternoon of fun” in the Quad Cities that included laser tag.
Bernard explained that ASB funds come from two major projects – one tied into the Prime Beef Festival in the fall and the other providing care packages during the week of final exams in the spring. The college also stepped up in a major way, providing free housing for the students this year, with the ARAMARK food service providing free meals.
“Monmouth College really supports this endeavor,” said Ott.
Next year, she said, ASB will return to its tradition of leaving the area. Her husband, faculty member Dan Ott, will lead a 10-student trip to the Mexican-U.S. border in Arizona to study immigration issues.