(February 27, 2009) - Spring Break is a time for rest, renewal, and time off, but for five DeSales University students it has become a tradition to give back to those less fortunate by participating in service trip programs.
This year, more than 30 DeSales University students will be participating in four service trip projects over spring break, March 1- 7. Started about 10 years ago, the service trip program allows students to travel across the country and abroad where they will learn new skills, serve others, and experience a different culture. This year, students will be serving in Tuloca, Mexico, at St. Bernard's Project in New Orleans, La., at St. John's Downtown Center and Bread of Life in Houston, Texas, and at the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky.
Among the students participating, some have dedicated their time year after year to take part in the program. Carly Guerino, senior nursing major, will be returning to Tuloca, Mexico for her second consecutive year. While in Mexico, Guerino will have the opportunity to apply her nursing skills to medical mission work in rural clinics and homes. A graduate of Lauralton Hall Academy High School in Milford, Conn., she has spent her last three spring breaks in service: Camden, N.J., in 2006, Houston, Texas, in 2007, and Mexico, in 2008 and 2009.
Guerino is returning to Mexico, in what has become a yearly spring break tradition. She is thankful for the experience, which has allowed her to gain leadership skills and an appreciation for all she has. Overall, she feels she has changed and become a better person, due to the program.
"Service at DeSales has taught me not only about helping underserved communities, but also about myself," said, Guerino. "My thoughts about these populations have changed. The experience has helped me realize what people take for granted."
Back in the United States, Jason Pirrung, senior TV/Film major, will be traveling to the Christian Appalachian Project in Kentucky where he will have the opportunity to work in schools and the local church, renovate homes, and assist the local Salvation Army. Students are made aware of the rural Appalachian setting and the extreme poverty that exists. Pirrung, who is from Philadelphia and a graduate of Father Judge High School, has spent his last two years of spring break in service: Houston, Texas, in 2007, and New Orleans, La. in 2008.
"You learn more in that one week than you do all semester," said Pirrung. "You get a chance to take time out of your own life, and explore all of the great things the world has to offer."
Pirrung feels he has learned not to judge people and to appreciate each person's story. Hurricane Katrina left much devastation for many people including Reverend Rudy at St. Bernard's Project in New Orleans. Pirrung had the opportunity to hear his stories that had been featured on CNN and described them as "amazing" and "unforgettable."
Going for the first time this year, Ricky Malo, junior nursing major, will be traveling to New Orleans where he will have the opportunity to work at St. Bernard's Project with Reverend Rudy and FEMA to rebuild homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
According to Malo, the service trip program put his life into perspective by teaching him that people do not work alone, but rather as part of a world community.
"I learned that regardless of socioeconomic status, race or culture, joining together with people brings out the best in everyone around you with no care of your differences," said Malo. "I also learned that helping the unfortunate is what I want to do because these people do need the most help to get back to their normal lives and it is the most rewarding thing you can do".
Christine Pierce, senior history and Spanish major, has done service for the past two years: New Orleans in 2007, and the Mazahua Mission in Tuloca, Mexico, in 2008. In Mexico, she assisted in repairing a hacienda and training center. In New Orleans, she learned how to install drywall and spackle. She had the opportunity to meet influential people including, the founder of the Mexican mission.
"I think one of the pillars to Catholic education is service to the community, including local, national, and international," said Pierce, graduate of Gwynedd Mercy Academy, Gwynedd Valley, Pa. "I've met some of the most inspiring and interesting individuals as part of the DeSales service trips and those relationships have encouraged me to continue to serve."
Marissa Baldassano, senior physician assistant major, has take part in spring break service projects in North Carolina in 2006, Houston, Texas, in 2007, and Camden, N.J. in 2008. During those trips, she worked on a variety of assignments, such as putting up walls and roofs of a house, serving in soup kitchens and day cares, packaging food, and supporting members of an HIV clinic and shelters.
"You can't help but change," said Baldassano. "Your friends come back and talk about how they shopped or slept throughout break. You come back more mature and more aware of what is really going on in the world and in your local community."
Jaime Gerhart, DeSales University Director of Center of Service and Social Justice, is the coordinator of the service trip program.
"A true service trip enables students to break down preconceived notions and stereotypes about people of different economic status, cultures, and backgrounds," said Gerhart. The opportunity to sit down and spend time hearing someone's story or holding a baby that has not been held in days is a meaningful experience and leaves a long -lasting impression."
Since joining the DeSales University staff in 2005, Gerhart planned trips based on student interest and areas in need of service. The spring break service trip program is open to anyone who is academically successful, meets the requirements, and has desire to serve others.
"I know that the people I helped will remember the feeling and the service itself, if not my face or name," said Pierce. "Participating in these types of trips allowed me to show others that someone cares and someone wants to help, and to
show them that they're loved. Sometimes that is more important than the work itself."
For more information on spring break trips at DeSales, please contact Jaime Gerhart, DeSales University Director of Center of Service and Social Justice, at (610)-282-1100, ext. 1889 or email, Jaime.Gerhart@desales.edu
Press Release: DeSales Spring Break Program Inspires Students to Serve Time and Again | Posted on: 2/27/2009
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu