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MC students in midst of Alternative Spring Break trips

Angela Lindorff
03/15/2012
For the typical college student, the states of Iowa and Kentucky aren’t the first that leap to mind when the magical phrase “Spring Break” is used. But for those looking for a service-based alternative to sun and surf, there is plenty to be accomplished in Des Moines and Louisville.

Six Monmouth College students are currently volunteering with the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity through the organization’s national alternative break program, Collegiate Challenge. Five other Monmouth students are in Louisville, where they are participating in Urban Spirit’s Alternate Spring Break.

“We are volunteering at the Habitat ReStore, with local families making minor home repairs, and on a Habitat build site placing siding on a house,” said Billy Bernard, MC’s assistant director of Greek life, leadership and involvement, who led the trip to Des Moines. “The Wakonda Christian Church has graciously opened its doors to us and is providing us with a place to sleep, shower and prepare meals.”

For the past 23 years, more than 194,000 students have spent their school breaks volunteering across the country through Habitat for Humanity’s national program.

That has included many previous students from Monmouth, and Bernard said the current group is “delighted to serve the Des Moines community and help another family reach their goal of home ownership.”

The students in Kentucky are experiencing a more faith-based spring break. Their program teaches students what it is like to live on minimum wage in America. During the week, they experience a day where they use public transportation, miss a meal and are “homeless.”

The Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, MC’s chaplain, is accompanying the students.

“The program is supposed to really give us a good taste of what it is like to live or try to live on minimum wage in America today,” she said prior to departing. “When we get there, we will be assigned a new family situation. For example, I might be a single mom with a couple kids trying to make it work. The work we will actually be doing is community service work for non-profits within the area. We will be catching a bus or walking to work, and we will receive money that goes toward our program.”

The students are also reading the book “Nickel and Dime” by Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote about whether a single mother, who depends solely on what she can make at low-wage jobs due to recent welfare reform, will be able to survive financially.

Ott is interested in “taking students on trips that are service-based but also education-based.” When asked if any of the students would be able to blog while on their trip, she replied that her intent was for the students to experience a “device-free” week.