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Fall 2011 Service-Learning Trips

Opportunities to improve oneself while bettering the community are a specialty of the Aquinas College Service-Learning Programs. This semester, 44 Aquinas students will travel across the United States as well as to the Dominican Republic to engage in service in various communities while creating connections, sharing memories, and make life-long friends.

Students who travel to West Virginia, either to Bethlehem Farm or Nazareth Farm, will engage in faith-based reflection while being exposed to the living conditions of the impoverished in each respective area. At each farm seven students will be asked to perform repairs on housing, basic construction and even chores around the farms for the betterment of each community, while interacting with other college or university students who have travelled to there as well for the exploration of their faith.

As the most international of the Service-Learning trips, the El Llano, Dominican Republic trip has students working with the FUMSIL (Fundación Mariana San Isidro Labrador) foundation in bringing aid to Haitians who have been displaced within the Dominican Republic and who seek medical care. Students are asked to help doctors travel to rural communities and administer medications to both adults and children who are desperately in need.

Working with the Re-Member Organization at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, students will work on basic building or sustainable repairs while learning about the Oglala Lakota history and cultural identity. This year nine students will visit historical sites and monuments while learning about the importance of cohesion and the preservation of one’s identity.

In Arcadia Maine, fourteen students will provide outdoor labor in the Arcadia National Park by cleaning up trash and participating in other vigorous activities that will require community building and team work.

Another Service Learning trip, which students will not be participating in this year, is to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here, through volunteer work, students learn the importance of acting as a unified unit.

"I learned a lot about living in a community," said Aquinas junior Kayla Barr recalling her trip to Philadelphia in the fall of 2010. As the first group to try out the Philadelphia service learning trip, the 13 pioneers had to act together in order accomplish tasks while visiting places in the community that either needed improving or a few sets of helping hands. Barr recounted her experiences, from helping older people with disabilities to tutoring school children, she said, "It made me realize how much I love volunteering, ...[it] made me realize how fortunate I am."

Students who participate in the Service-Learning programs gain experiences that stay with them their entire lives, and create a community in which they may be a part of. Barr said, "I made 12 friends. I didn’t know anybody and I am still friends with all of them except maybe one."