Southeast Students Hammering Home Value of Service during Spring Break



March 16, 2007 – Seventeen students and three staff members from Southeast Missouri State University plan to use a little elbow grease and extend a helping hand during the University’s spring break next week.

The group is headed to Greensboro, Ala., where they will be working in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, building houses and clearing land in an area hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.

“We will be finishing some houses that are close to completion,” said Sara Stonewater, coordinator for leadership and involvement at Southeast.

She said the group also will clear areas on which homes will be brought into in the near future. She says the group will work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 19-23.

The trip is co-sponsored by the University Center and the Office of Residence Life and funded through University Center Leadership and the Residence Hall Association at Southeast. Stonewater says the trip is designed to help students learn the value of leadership through service. She says she hopes students will be fulfilled, realizing that you “get more by giving that by receiving.”

Stonewater says she also hopes the students will benefit from traveling to a different geographical region with different cultural norms.

“Thirty percent of the population there is below the poverty line,” she said, “so it’s a high needs community.”

Andrea Branum, a Southeast senior construction management major from Albion, Ill., says she is looking forward to the experience.

“I’m really excited about it, and I cannot wait,” she said. “It’s going to be such a life-changing experience, and I hope I come back a better person because of it.”

She says the “personal growth and the experience that you are helping other people” are important pieces she hopes to take from the spring break trip.

Branum says her lifetime goal is work for Habitat for Humanity. She’s already taken a step in that direction. She has an internship lined up this summer working with Habitat for Humanity in Evansville, Ind. Branum says she hopes the spring break service trip, coupled with her summer internship, will lay the groundwork for a possible future with the company.

“I just hope it will give me the experience to apply to any Habitat affiliate,” she says.

Students wishing to participate in the Habitat for Humanity spring break trip were asked to apply, Stonewater said.

“We had more applications that we had spots,” she said. “It’s hard to turn students away who want to use their break for service.”

Students were required to pay $75 each to participate. They will be staying at a retreat house owned by a local church and sleeping on the floor, Stonewater said. The group will be taking two 15- passenger vans, leaving on Sunday and returning on March 24.

“It’s really nice to take students out of their regular environment with television and the Internet,” she said. “It’s good for group development and for the students getting to know each other.”

Last year, Stonewater led a group during spring break to work with Habitat for Humanity in Wilmington, N.C. She said that group was very moved by the opportunity to get to meet and visit with the family for whom they were building a house.

“I hope we are able to meet the people again whose houses we are building,” she said. “It’s really fun to watch that.”