Taking Ambrosian Service on the Road


Many SAU students will exchange a "traditional" spring break trip March 13-17 and instead serve communities, families, and the environment.

Campus Ministry and Ambrosians for Peace and Justice are sponsoring three spring service trips in Memphis, Tenn., Chicago, Ill., and Kansas City, Mo.

In addition, members of the Habitat for Humanity SAU chapter will trade their textbooks for hard hats and hammers and help build homes in Oklahoma City, Okla., and Fairfield, Ala.

Students from the College of Education will also spend six days in Chicago on a mission to serve and learn.

Kaitlin Depuydt, director of co-curricular service and justice ministry said the spring break trips focus on service, but also offer downtime for students to have fun and experience the area where they are serving.

"Who knows how these service trips will shape their lives in the future," Depuydt said. "But they will have an impact on their lives in some way."

Caring for the earth

Nine students will go to Memphis for the annual Alternative Spring Break with Living Lands & Waters.

This hands-on and typically muddy experience will bring together college students from across the U.S. They will spend four days on foot and in boats, pulling debris from the waters and shores of McKeller Lake. They will leave campus March 12 and return March 17.

Living Lands & Waters is a non-profit launched by Quad City resident Chad Pregracke, whose concern about river pollution sparked him to take action. Since 1998, Living Lands & Water and more than 98,000 volunteers have removed 9.2 million pounds of debris from 23 rivers, including the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers, according to its website. Pregracke was named CNN's "Hero of the Year" in 2013, exactly a decade after receiving an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from St. Ambrose.

Caring for mothers and children

Five students will spend March 11-17 at The Well of Mercy in Chicago, a nonprofit that offers a home and support to single mothers before and after the birth of a child.

Students will stay on-site at The Well of Mercy with the 13 mothers and eight children who live there. They will provide childcare, help with cleaning and painting projects, and listen and learn from the women while sharing meals and spending time together.

"The biggest focus is getting to know the mothers and providing hospitality," Depuydt said.

Caring for community needs

Five SAU students will depart March 11 to spend spring break at the Holy Family Catholic Worker House in Kansas City. The house serves breakfast three days a week to anyone needing a meal or wanting company, and offers people a place to use the phone or check mail, and grab a loaf of bread or produce when needed. The house also offers a sock exchange, and anyone can trade a dirty pair for a clean pair.

Students will stay at the house, help with meals and other chores. In addition, they will have volunteer and learning experiences at a second Catholic Worker site; Harvesters, a regional food bank; Uplift Organization Inc., which provides homeless outreach; and Journey to New Life, which helps men and women who were involved with the justice system become productive and successful citizens.

"This trip offers a lot of different experiences," Depuydt said. Students will return March 17.

Caring for families

Eighteen members of the St. Ambrose chapter of Habitat for Humanity will spend the week working in Oklahoma or Alabama. Habitat for Humanity enlists volunteers to construct or remodel homes that are then sold to individuals or families via a low-interest loan. The nonprofit works to provide affordable housing and improve neighborhoods. SAU chapter president, junior Quetzal Morin, said members will be working with other college volunteers from across the U.S.

Ten students will work in Alabama and eight will work in Oklahoma, each leaving campus at 6 a.m. March 11 and returning March 18. They don't know exactly what they will be working on, but "I've been told we will not be bored," Morin said, adding on one past service trip they worked on four homes in five days.

The students will see the result of their labor day-by-day and work side-by-side with the individuals and families who will buy the homes. Morin said she enjoys meeting the people who will live there, hearing their stories and how grateful they are to the volunteers. During a past service trip, Morin said she had to conquer her fear of heights and install siding 80 feet in the air. "The owner was so thankful and said she couldn't believe someone would risk their fear to build her a home," she said.

Caring for the future

Ten students will be immersed in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood as part of the service and experiential learning course, Diversity and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

Dale Blesz, PhD, associate professor in the College of Education, is leading the class that will allow students to experience cultural and linguistic diversity in the classroom and the community.

Blesz describes Pilsen as a vibrant, predominately Spanish-speaking neighborhood. SAU students will spend a good portion of the week at Orozco Academy, a high poverty, high performing K-8 school that creates student success through innovative practices and a strong relationship with the families.

SAU students will spend two hours each morning assisting in classrooms at Orozco. After lunch, they will volunteer for The Resurrection Project, an organization that has empowered and revitalized the Pilsen neighborhood through housing and development projects, educational programs and community action.

SAU students will return to Orozco at the end of the school day to assist with after school programs or extracurricular activities.

The trip runs from March 11-17.

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