Students and staff make an impact through Alternative Spring Break
April 11, 2013 By Elizabeth Trollinger
break from their service project clearing pathways on the
Cumberland Trail during Alternative Spring Break.
The group working on the Cumberland Trail during ASB
“removed leaves, trees, rocks and ‘duff’ from the trail path in
order to finally get to the soil,” says Area and Shuttle
Coordinator Jane Goatley ’12, who led the trip.
Another group of students and staff worked at Virginia’s Sky
Meadows State Park on trail restoration “in 30- and 40-
degree weather—it actually snowed,” says Student Life
Coordinator Lindsey Clark ’11.
During Centre’s spring break in mid-March, many students chose to spend the week taking a much-deserved break from academic work. Several groups of students, however, spent the week doing important service work on Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips.
Coordinated by Centre Action Reaches Everyone (CARE), a student organization dedicated to community service, ASB grows in popularity and size each year. Students, as well as the faculty and staff members who accompany them on ASB trips, enjoy the chance to work together to make a difference in the lives of others.
“Many Centre students are very interested in participating in Alternative Spring Break because it is an easy way to serve,” says Christin Gong ’13, president of CARE. “It is a fun opportunity to meet new people within the Centre community, as well as the people you are serving.”
For ASB 2013, Centre students and staff traveled to sites in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia for their service projects.
“I helped lead the trip to Caretta, W.Va., a very small coal town in McDowell County,” says Kara Beer ’12, community service coordinator for the Bonner Program. “The poverty rate for McDowell County is around 33 percent, so the students encountered a level of poverty unfamiliar to many of them. We worked with an organization called Big Creek People in Action and helped with home repair projects, including roofing, siding, painting and even dry-walling. The days were long and it even snowed, but the students cried when we left due to the connection they felt with the community.”
“Our trip service site was working with the Cumberland Trail Conference, a nonprofit group whose goal is to finish the Cumberland Trail,” says Jane Goatley ’12, area coordinator and shuttle coordinator. “We had to remove leaves, trees, rocks and ‘duff’—organic material that has decayed and sits on top of the soil—from the trail path in order to finally get to the soil. Some of the students had the opportunity to do some intricate rock work along the trail. With three other institutions volunteering during their breaks, we helped build over 4,000 feet of hiking trails.”
“Our group did trail restoration in a park in Sky Meadows, Va.,” says Lindsey Clark ’11, Student Life coordinator. “We created paths for water to run so that the trails would not flood. Our largest project was digging a trench to lay tubing down so the water would flow under the trail instead of on top. The students were covered from head to toe in mud, and were working in 30- and 40-degree weather—it actually snowed a few inches. Regardless, they worked tirelessly and saw the projects from start to finish.”
Each of the ASB groups cited working with others—from Centre, as well as community members and students from other colleges—as the highlight of their trips.
“The people of Caretta tried to repay the students for their work by sharing pieces of themselves and of Caretta through stories, song and even dance,” Beer says. “A man named Manuel taught all the students to clog [an Appalachian folk dance]. He had been clogging his whole life and tried to teach the students that ‘no matter what life threw your way, it was better when you were dancing.’ It was an incredible night—everyone was exhausted from a long day of work, but no one wanted to stop because the feeling of community was so strong.”
“The work was physically demanding, but extremely rewarding. It was amazing to admire the beautiful trail that we made as we were walking out at the end of each day,” says Goatley of working on the Cumberland Trail. “I credit the success of our week to the students’ positive attitudes and hard work. The other school groups were fun to visit with and compare stories from college and from our experiences working on the trail.”
Working together in service during ASB created strong bonds between the groups from Centre.
“The most rewarding part of the trip was getting to know more Centre students. Just when I thought I knew everyone at Centre, I was able to find more great students who had something in common with me—love for service!” Gong says. “I will always remember the moments we had on this trip.”
“We had so many people who didn’t know each other when we started, and by the time we got back to campus they were all so much closer,” echoes Clark. “They were such a great group of students, and I was sad when we had to come back.”
Although several weeks have passed since spring break, those who participated know that ASB will have a lasting impact.
“ASB trips have the potential to be the catalyst for great change,” Beer says. “Many students return from these trips and are inspired to continue doing service.”
“ASB is a humbling experience for students, in general,” adds Gong. “Not only do we get to hang out with other Centre students during spring break, but it also gives students an opportunity to have another perspective on life.”
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Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre hosted its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.