For students at Wheeling Jesuit University, service is a core component of education.
The university's Service for Social Action Center will continue its annual winter break immersion trips to El Salvador and New Orleans in January. WJU students have traveled every year to El Salvador since 2005 and to New Orleans since 2006.
Tom Weinandy, graduate assistant at the Service for Social Action Center at WJU, said the trips are learning opportunities.
Photo by Rebecca Olsavsky
Tom Weinandy, a Wheeling Jesuit University graduate assistant at the Service for Social Action Center, said there are a total of 10 immersion trips offered through the center during the year.
"The reason Wheeling Jesuit has immersion trips is because we believe education outside the classroom is as important as in the classroom," Weinandy said. "People grow by giving back."
According to Weinandy, eight students and four employees will participate in the El Salvador immersion. In the capital city of San Salvador, volunteers will assist with construction projects and work at a school and orphanage. They also will learn about the life, works and legacy of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
"We like to incorporate the best service opportunities we can find as well as educational and cultural experiences," Weinandy said of the immersions.
Weinandy was part of the El Salvador trip last year. This year he will help in New Orleans.
Sixteen students and two staff members will travel to New Orleans for the immersion, which includes a partnership with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans to rebuild houses damaged during Hurricane Katrina. YRNO later sells those houses at a discounted price to teachers.
"It is such a great organization," Weinandy said.
After the hurricane hit New Orleans in 2005 and broke levees, WJU students began visiting the city the following year to assist with recovery efforts. Weinandy emphasized the impact such immersion trips can have on students' lives.
"When students come back, they realize the world is bigger than them but they can make a difference," Weinandy said.
Two recent graduates who traveled to New Orleans via the immersion during their time as students are now completing a year of service through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
"After graduation, Grace Williams and Jenna Gleason wanted to return to the city and be a part of continual recovery," Weinandy said.
SSAC has 70 community partners and a total of 10 immersion trips per year.