St. Norbert College students spend Spring Break helping others

Posted at 10:47 PM, Mar 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-29 23:47:12-04

A group of St. Norbert College students in De Pere recently went on Spring Break, but they didn't spend it relaxing on the beach. Their trip was anything but a vacation, and that's exactly the way they wanted it.

The 12 students signed up to take part in the college's TRIPS program which stands for Turning Responsibility into Powerful Service. The group hopped in rented vans and drove 13 hours to Arkansas to help families in need.

"It was a very rewarding type of tired at the end of the day," said Senior Lauren Adams.

The TRIPS co-leader and her group teamed up with Habitat for Humanity in Little Rock. They worked nine hour days raking, painting, building fences, and replacing gutters for low income families living in nine different homes in need of some TLC.

"It just meant a lot to them because they aren't able to complete the work themselves, and just seeing 12 students spending their Spring Break like that just meant the world to them. It was really great to see their reactions," explains Junior and TRIPS Co-Leader Caytie Joe Boknevitz.

One improvement project, in particular, sticks out for Adams. 

"The woman who lived in the house came out and hugged us each individually and thanked us for everything, and it was just one of those moments where it was incredible to see, you know, just a small little bit of work, three hours of the day, can make such a huge impact on somebody's life." 

The students raised the money to go on this service trip by writing letters to request donations. Once in Little Rock, they had to abide by the program's simple living requirement.  

"We give students money like equivalent to food stamps, so it's like you have to live simply," explains TRIPS Coordinator Sandy Murphy.
"This just means you don't wear excessive makeup. Don't worry about having a fancy dinner," adds Boknevitz.
The volunteers also slept on cots in a church. The students say the bonds they formed through this experience will last forever.
"You go in as strangers, but you come out as basically family," says Boknevitz.
Murphy says she has seen the lasting impact of the program through what former students are doing in their communities 10 years later. The stories bring her to tears.
"Politically and socially and just relationally, they're making a difference. How they're raising their kids is different because of the formation they had in these programs. I mean, how cool is that?" 
For Adams, doing labor in Little Rock has given her new perspective. 
"Just gratitude and blessing. It made me realize that I'm so blessed in my life, and that I was very happy to be able to choose to do something for other people."
Now, she's encouraging other students to make the same choice for their Spring Break.
About 150 St. Norbert College students went on 17 different service trips this year across the country. They also worked in children's hospitals, helped those facing intellectual challenges, and tackled urban poverty in Detroit.