Last Sunday, a group of students left campus for spring break in a string of minivans. The students weren’t headed to the sunny shores of Daytona Beach or Cancun to party. They were headed to the foothills of Appalachia to the river town of East Liverpool, Ohio ,where they picked up hammers and paint brushes and put them to good use.
The students, along with some volunteers, were part of the alternative spring break program sponsored by Kent State and The Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement. Students were sent to one of seven locations.
Rachael Esterly, the project coordinator for the Columbiana County trip, started out volunteering with students after Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Miss., but after a couple of years, the need for volunteers turned to those with specialized skill sets. She looked at other volunteering options and mentioned to the planning board that Kent State has several satellite campuses in the Appalachia area; eventually she worked with the Salem and East Liverpool campuses to find housing, food and locations for students to volunteer.
Volunteers reflected on how the trip improved their personal gratitude toward life. Austin Stevanus, freshman aeronautics major, said that it changed his perspective.
“I think it’s a refreshing experience that I would recommend to anyone just to give a dose of humility, which I know is something that I definitely need,” Stevanus said.
p>Many volunteers used power tools for the first time and picked up other skills on the trip. Khanh Vu, a sophomore Vietnamese student studying international relations, was happy to learn how to use a nail gun and a drill.
“I always thought of it as men’s work, but it’s cool that women have that knowledge too,” Vu said.
The student volunteers worked alongside people who work on the locations year round. Aaron Roach, the custodial superintendent at the Community Resource Center, was happy to entertain the young volunteers during their lunch breaks.
“I’m fortunate to have met such an outstanding group of young people and it’s done a lot for my attitude,” Roach said. “It makes me feel good about today’s youth. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had a lot to be optimistic about with some of the children around here, but this is outstanding, just outstanding.”
Contact Brian Smith at [email protected] .