Students Spend Spring Break in Service to Others
Every year, Sacred Heart University offers a variety of volunteer and service learning programs that help students promote social change within the community and beyond. This past spring break, students had the chance to attend international service learning programs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica. These programs, organized through the Office of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning, gave students the opportunity to learn about a variety of different issues facing these countries—from civil war and the economy to the environment.
In El Salvador, students had the chance to learn about the history of the country’s civil war, current economic and social conditions and the role of U.S. foreign policy in El Salvador. This program is dedicated to the enrichment of the local community of Tierra Blanca, but also incorporates multiple opportunities for cultural exchange and immersion for Sacred Heart students. In Costa Rica, each SHU student is paired with a local Costa Rican student, and the pairs spend time working on various service projects including volunteering with an environmental conservation organization and working in the local schools and social service agencies.
Working with children was a large component of the service program in Guatemala. Here, the SHU delegation lived within a small community on a sugar plantation and assisted a local organization called CERNE. Stephanie Nickerson ’15 says of this program, “This spring break trip to Guatemala allowed for the experience of solidarity with an entirely new culture and people, and the confirmation that my passion for service is one of the greatest blessings.” Fellow senior Ashley Chory has been visiting Guatemala for several years and was impressed with how much the organization has grown. She says, “The clinic has come a long way in the last three years since I first went, and I am so incredibly happy to have been a part of it. It has been a blessing to be able to see what our help has done for the people.”
SHU students also had the chance to work with Habitat for Humanity on alternative spring break trips, as they do every year. This year, students went to Arkansas, Chicago, Tennessee, Florida and Delaware. They had the chance to tackle a variety of construction projects, ranging from painting, flooring, tiling and roofing. The common thread for Habitat participants is what a truly life-changing experience it has been for all. Not only is it a transformative experience, but also a chance to work with others, forming new and lasting friendships.
Kelly Antimisiaris ’16 led the group in Florida and says, “Getting to lead my first trip to Florida this year was an incredible experience. I could not have imagined spending my week with a more hardworking group of individuals. I walked away with 19 new stories that will stay with me for life.