What They Did On Winter Break…

March 07, 2016

Alternative Winter BreakBy Cheryl Meglio

Things haven’t been easy for the residents of Moore, Oklahoma. Recent flooding, winter storms and a deadly 2013 tornado have left the community devastated. As the town struggles to recover, they received a big boost from 20 dedicated students and staff members from St. Joseph’s College, who traveled to the area for an alternative winter break.

Partnering with Serve Moore, an organization that has gathered more than 50,000 volunteers to help the Moore community since 2013, the SJC contingent performed a variety of tasks, including removing damaged trees, building fences and taking down a damaged barn. There was a great deal of work to be done. “I was surprised at how bad the living situations were [even] this long after the natural disasters,” said Marlee Cole ’17. The child study and speech communications major “enjoyed seeing how much of a difference we were making for the people and hearing what they had to say about our work.”

“Walking in to what appears to be, and in fact is, such a monumental task,” said SJC math major and trip participant Ryan Stephens ’17, “and leaving with the space completely revitalized—that was satisfying.”

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Ryan’s sister, Shannon Stephens ’17, an accounting major and another of the volunteers taking part on the trip, was heartened by the response the group received from those they were helping. “They were offering us everything they had because they were so thankful that we were there to help,” she said. “Everywhere we went, people were so friendly. They would ask us where we were from and why we were in Oklahoma, and everyone we met thanked us for what we were doing.”

The College’s alternative winter break trip is one of the largest community service projects in which SJC Long Island students participate. Previous alternative winter and spring break trips have included Colorado, South Carolina, New Jersey and Nicaragua.

Each trip also demonstrates that an education doesn’t just take place in the classroom. “I learned so many things on this trip,” explained Shannon. “There were some practical things I learned, such as how to properly use a chainsaw, build a fence and how to think outside the box for solutions on a worksite when you do not have all the right tools or when things do not work as planned. Aside from the practical skills, I learned what it means to work together, to be part of a group and to do something bigger than every one of us.”

“I truly learned the value of working as a team,” added Ryan. “I have not had the opportunity to work so closely with a group of people…. The alternative winter break provided me with an entirely new outlook on teamwork and what can be accomplished as a result.”

Marlee couldn’t agree more. The trip helped her realize that she “is capable [of doing] much more than I thought I was able to do. I saw that if a group of people come together and are truly determined, we really can reach a goal.”

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