Alternative spring break trips give students the opportunity to serve

Mikaila Gondreau

Among the festivities of Iowa State’s spring breakers, students from the sorority and fraternity community took a different approach to how they spent their time away from classes this year. More than 40 students, faculty and advisers traveled to Jamaica and Indianapolis over spring break to provide services to communities in need.

Every year, members of the sorority and fraternity community have the opportunity to apply to go on alternative spring break trips. Members have been going on Destination Indianapolis since 2011 and started participating in Project Jamaica in 2015. The largest group of students that was able to travel for the cause, went on the Project Jamaica trip.

Project Jamaica, which is associated with a semester-long course, allows students to explore social issues, build relationships and learn what it truly means to provide community service. Through rebuilding schools in Jamaica, students learned firsthand how to best utilize service.

“In the Greek community we do a lot of service initiatives, service hours or philanthropies,” said Ryan Ford, president of Phi Delta Theta and one of the students who participated in Project Jamaica this year.

Although philanthropies are an effective way to support organizations and charities, Ford expressed there is more to community service than raising money.

“We really dive into what is the most effective form of service,” Ford said.

This year students put their time and energy toward building stadium seats and repainting the schools in Jamaica. During the same week, President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum took a toll on Jamaicans and their building progress.

“It keeps coming back to that lack of resources they have,” Ford said, “and the frustration in that they know they are able to do things but they don’t have the resources that we have.”

Although the United States has the ability to serve other areas of the world, the sorority and fraternity community understands there are areas of America that are also in need of that service. Thirteen students, including Bethany Darr, a member of Pi Beta Phi and site leader for the Sorority and Fraternity Alternative Spring Break program, traveled a shorter distance to participate in Destination Indianapolis.

While there, students assisted Horizon House and Fletcher Place Community Center, both of which offer support to those who are homeless. Horizon House alone serves nearly 3,400 people every year. Seeing up to 200 people without homes every day, they are in a constant need of extra hands.

“The money is not necessarily the problem,” Darr said. “It’s getting hands on deck to actually do things, and I think that’s what makes a difference.”

Like Darr, students who participate in the alternative spring break trips understand the importance of addressing urgent social issues such as urban poverty.

“Homelessness is not a choice,” Darr said. “People can do a lot of hard work and still end up in the cycle of homelessness. I think in the back of my mind I always knew no one chooses to be homeless but [during the trip] it just was really solidified.”

Neither Darr nor Ford had any regrets about spending spring break providing community service.

“I got so much more out of this trip than any other spring break trip I’ve ever gone on,” Ford said. “So I would never refer to it as ‘giving up my spring break’ because I gained so much from this.”

Darr was happy to use her spring break time for something “bigger than herself.”

“I don’t care to be the top student or the president of every organization,” Darr said. “I just want to build a better me and inspire others to do the same.”