“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
― Mahatma Gandhi
This semester, I had the opportunity to serve as a Learning Partner for one of Western New England University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips. For those of you that aren’t familiar with ASB, it is an opportunity that allows students to engage in meaningful direct service while exploring social issues and building relationships. At WNEU, the program has been active since 2001. This year, trips were led to 4 different locations: Radford, VA, Immokalee, FL, New York, NY, and Memphis, TN. Each trip had a planned agenda. I was fortunate enough to help lead the trip to Memphis where we worked with patients and families at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and served in the Memphis Botanic Garden.
The reason I wanted to help lead an ASB trip this year was to connect more with current students at WNEU. As an admission counselor, a lot of my time is spent working with prospective students. Since I personally did not attend WNE, I wanted an experience that would help me convey to prospective students what it means to be a current student here. In other words, what is it truly like to be a Golden Bear?
From the minute our plane touched down in the “land of the Delta blues,” our group was ready for service. At the Memphis Botanic Garden, we spent time pruning holly bushes, sorting crafts and re-mulching the children’s playground. The staff at the garden services thousands of children each year in the greater Memphis area. Their job is to make children aware of the connection they have with nature. The facilities span over 96-acres—there is always work that needs to be done. Though strenuous at times, the work we did in the garden strengthened our team. The WNE students encouraged one another and always had a joke or story that kept the group laughing and made the work fun. Our hosts at the garden were the embodiment of southern hospitality. We were often thanked for the work we did and even treated to a Memphis BBQ luncheon on our last morning!
Many evenings were spent in one of the three satellite houses that service St. Jude Children’s Hospital. These “home away from homes” are where families stay when a child is a patient at the hospital. Our group was responsible for serving 150+ people dinner each night. Though the work that we did was at times stressful and emotionally draining, I witnessed the students support one another and complete each task as a team.
Our nightly reflections revealed the thoughts that many students had about his/her experience on the trip. Many connections were made between the work we did in the Memphis communities and how we can bring what we learned back to Springfield communities. The 8 students on my trip had given up their spring break—a week typically associated with beaches and relaxation—to learn about a new community and to serve the people that were part of it. By the end of the week, I came to know more about the type of student associated with the WNEU community. They are active; they are caring; they are engaged. They associate learning with experiences that take them beyond the classroom. I encourage you (whether you’re a current or prospective student) to explore the opportunities available to students at this University. The ASB program is one way that WNEU can help you discover the best version of yourself.
Post by: Abby Meachem, Admission Counselor
For more information on our Alternative Spring Break trips, please visit the website: http://www1.wne.edu/lbc/index.cfm?selection=doc.7138
Group shot at the Botanic Garden
WNEU students Courtney Brown, Danny Venegas, and Corey Brown show off their gardening skills at the Memphis Botanic Garden.
We did have time for sightseeing! This is the entire group at Graceland.
WNEU students photographed outside St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.