Over spring break, while many students visited home or went on vacation, 32 Kutztown students bundled up outside to construct houses for Habitat for Humanity.
One of these students, Junior Kelly Hedlund, a secondary education major, was able to face a fear of heights and use power tools for the first time to build a house in Tennessee along with nine other KU students. The group started out as strangers, but they ended with a strong bond after the house’s construction and horseback riding in the Smokey Mountains.
This volunteer trip was the Community Outreach Center’s annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB), which offers an option for students to travel and help a particular cause. This year, the student volunteers traveled to four towns in West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina to build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
More students went on the Alternative Spring Break than last year, according to Max Rothstein, an Alternative Spring Break coordinator. While less than 20 went last year, 32 went this year.
Participating students had to pay a fee of $150 to go on the trip. Although the Community Outreach Center receives funding, the rest of the expenses for the ASB trip were covered by fundraising and help from local businesses. Rothstein said that the group did a good job with fundraising; they raised almost $3000. The organization has leftover money for the future.
While choosing a trip, ASB coordinator Rischa Burrell said that they wanted “something that would be very hands-on and complimenting on a resume, but also adventurous and once in a life-time.”
Habitat for Humanity, whose goal is to build homes for low-income families, offered a trip designed for college students through the Collegiate Challenge, according to Rothstein. There were 5 to 10 locations for students to build houses at. An itinerary, housing and meal plans were organized by Habitat for Humanity.
“It is a great opportunity for students of different backgrounds to come together for a great cause,” said Burell. “It is amazing to be able to put those aspects aside in efforts to help others in need and to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
The students that participated had a positive experience. They created a Facebook group to share memories and photographs of the trip with each other.
Rothstein felt rewarded to go on the trip after planning it. He remembers the looks on the faces of the owners of the newly constructed house, and the parent saying, “You’re building a home for me and my five children.” The owners always came to the construction site and provided a large meal for all of the volunteers, according to Rothstein.
Krista Schlupp, a senior criminal justice major, also interacted with the owners.
“One couple who was going to be living in one of the houses came every day and helped us out,” said Schlupp. “At the end of our stay, they thanked us for all that we did. That moment alone was probably the best part about it.”
Danielle Gubitosa, an elementary and special education major, decided to do the trip because she wanted to get involved with Habitat for Humanity. She said that Habitat for Humanity is the national philanthropy of her sorority, Alpha Sigma Tau. She enjoyed meeting college students from all over the United States and will participate next year as well.
“Building a house for someone else was such an amazing experience for me,” said Gubitosa. “Everyone was so welcoming, and I felt like I contributed so much to the house I built.”
“It was incredible to see 10 strangers come away from this experience with such an incredible bond,” said Hedlund. “I would recommend this to every student next year.”
Although Rothstein is graduating and cannot do Alternative Spring Break again, he said he would like to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity again. Although, he jokes that he would “like to go somewhere warmer.”
By Emily Leayman