WHEELING - While many college students head to the beaches for spring break, others will be performing service missions offered locally and abroad by Wheeling Jesuit University and Bethany College.
WJU and Bethany College invite students to make the most of their time away from classes by participating in service trips in the area, surrounding states and abroad.
"There's a need everywhere," said Colleen Ryan, interim director of the Service for Social Action Center at WJU, about service opportunities.
Bethany College students serve communities in Mississippi through working on a crane refuge and implanting oyster nests. Another past service trip included beach restoration in Florida.
Ryan, who led a service immersion to El Salvador over winter break, will guide WJU students during a spring break trip to Glenmary Farm in Lewis County, Ky.
Through the Catholic mission group which works in rural counties, they will partner with nonprofits to provide service to low-income housing areas, local food pantries, nursing homes and others in need. Excited to witness students' involvement, Ryan believes the experience will be powerful.
"When you meet people of different experiences and connect with them, it's hard to stay the same afterwards," Ryan said.
Service also will stay within the Mountain State as the Appalachian Institute at WJU will host groups from all over the country for service in West Virginia. Students from Boston College, University of Michigan, Loyola University, Stonehill University, St. Louis University, University of San Francisco, St. Joseph's University, Rockhurt University and Santa Clara University will travel throughout the Northern Panhandle and other parts of the state to complete service-oriented projects. Participants will offer their help at food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and service centers such as Appalachian Outreach in Glen Dale. On a daily basis, the organization provides poverty and disaster relief by collecting and distributing goods to West Virginia families in need.
Working to alleviate such poverty, as well as experience the state's rich history and culture, participants coming from outside of West Virginia will learn about the state during their time here.
"That's one of the components I love in particular," said Tom Breiding, immersion trips coordinator for the Appalachian Institute at WJU. "So much of America's resources come from Appalachia."
Relating to these resources, additional trips include an energy trip to examine the state's extraction industry and a health care trip to learn about rural health care in the coal fields.
While these service trips will primarily be comprised of students from outside schools, WJU Arrupe Scholars Marque Marry and Pete Scharf will act as leaders for three of the groups.
Bethany College Director of Student Activities Sam Goodge has been coordinating service trips for many years. Inspired by a service trip to Jamaica that he organized while serving as a graduate assistant at another university, Goodge suggested that same service destination after the Bethany College Student Activities Council requested an international trip for this year's spring break service project. Past projects included nature-related service trips to Florida for beach restoration and Mississippi for crane refuge and implanting oyster nests.
"(Service) is a life-changing experience. It goes beyond yourself," Goodge said.
Goodge has often witnessed that change in students and believes relationships formed with those served are a key component of the service experience. Indeed, Bethany students traveling to Petersfield, Jamaica, will have the opportunity to immerse themselves culturally by eating and sleeping in houses of local people. The group will work with after-school programs and architectural projects.
The trip is through Amizade, a global service-learning organization.
Bethany College will also host cultural, educational and athletic trips over spring break. Traveling to London, the History Club will visit sites such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abby and St. Paul's Cathedral. Exploring Austria and Switzerland, the German Club will venture through Vienna, the Alps and Geneva for combined touristic and educational experiences. While in Mexico City, the Spanish club plans to view the pyramids of Teotihuacan, Museo de Antropologia and The Frida Kahlo Museum. Students in The American Chemical Society Chapter of Bethany College will attend scientific talks and poster sessions at the American Chemical Society Spring National Meeting in Dallas, Texas.
Bethany College's softball and baseball teams will begin their 2014 seasons and compete against other NCAA DIII division teams in Florida, softball traveling to Clermont and baseball traveling to Port St. Lucie.