The Opportunity of a Lifetime – A Meaningful Spring Break – by Kyle Dosan. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Just imagine this scenario: Instead of going home for your first college spring break you decide to go on a service trip that will be thousands of miles from your hometown with forty-six people that you do not know that well. Sounds enticing doesn’t it? That is exactly how I spent my spring break this semester and I am so happy that I get to share my experience with all of you. To start off I need to tell a little bit of a backstory. At the beginning of the fall semester I decided to join a few extracurricular groups who love to volunteer throughout the school year. One of the clubs I joined is called Students Today Leaders Forever (otherwise known as STLF) and it is a group who has this big one-week volunteer excursion called the Pay It Forward Tour (also called the PIFT), where a group of students get on a coach bus the day of spring break and travel to five different states and volunteer in a different community each day. There is always one city that we are traveling toward called the “celebration city”, where we team up with other colleges and go out and have one big group volunteer project. This year’s celebration city happened to be in Atlanta, Georgia. I am from Duluth, Minnesota and I have only visited parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Thunder Bay, Canada, so I was interested in the travel aspect for this trip. I also really enjoy volunteering. I absolutely love giving back to communities and helping others so I was really excited to go on the PIFT. Our destinations for our service trip were (in order) Joliet, Illinois; Shelbyville, Kentucky; Ashville, North Carolina; Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina and ending up in Atlanta, Georgia. Some of the volunteering we did ranged from going to a Boys and Girls Club, picking up trash, helping out at a food shelf and jump starting a gardening program at an elementary school in Atlanta.
(Picture of STLF after our first volunteer site at the Boys and Girls Club in Joliet, Illinois)
Along our travels we would either stay at the location we were to volunteer at or in a church or rec. center. My favorite volunteer project on the PIFT had to be when we visited the Boys and Girls Club in Illinois. It was great to interact and play games with the kids that almost made us volunteers feel like we were little kids once again. We also put on an Easter egg scavenger hunt that went through the whole building and was followed by a pizza party. When we would leave a service site and get back on the bus there were some long rides but having a different “bus buddy” everyday led to the time going by fast because you would have a new friend by the end of the bus ride. We would arrive at our next service site or church late in the afternoon or early evening and this is where we would spend the night. We would participate in various bonding activities that allowed us to really connect with the all the other leaders on the trip and make new friendships. However, the trip was more than just volunteering and long bus rides. Our STLF group has a “date night” that is in our celebration city where a group of friends go and explore the city. Usually there are more girls than guys on the trip so the guys ask either 4 to 5 girls to accompany them on date night. There is one rule in order to properly ask a girl out on date night: it has to be creative and in front of the whole group, so this made for some funny and well thought-out “date-night-proposals.” Although it rained for most of date night it was still fun to visit the Coca Cola Museum and explore Atlanta with some awesome people. Other than date night we had some opportunities to become tourists and explore the cities that we volunteered in. For example, we arrived in Charleston early so we spent almost two hours at the beach and we were able to see the Atlantic Ocean. For me, it was my first time seeing the ocean and it was a great experience. On our way back from the trip we stopped in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, and I have to say it is one of my favorite cities. For one I love country music and everywhere you walk in downtown Nashville country music is playing all over and the barbecued food was great as well. Also there is a soda called Cheerwine that is sold exclusively in the Carolina’s that I tried and in my opinion it is 10 times better than cherry Coke.
(The Atlantic Ocean at the beach in Charleston, South Carolina)
(Picture of the Honky Tonk restaurant in downtown Nashville, Tennessee)
I am forever grateful that I was able to spend my first spring break on such a unique trip with so many awesome people. Walking off the bus after coming home from the PIFT was difficult because it was one of the best weeks of my life. From making forty-six new friends, to volunteering, to the site-seeing it was an all-around tremendous experience. It was touching to hear some of the people’s stories at the different volunteer sites and they thanked us from the bottom of their hearts for helping them. At the end of the day that is what volunteering is all about, helping other people and wanting to make a difference. On this trip I was able to practice leadership skills while meeting new people and volunteering. I highly recommend anyone at the College of Saint Scholastica to consider going to an STLF meeting and going on the PIFT next spring. I know that I am already excited for next years PIFT because I had that much fun!
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10 responses to “The Opportunity of a Lifetime – A Meaningful Spring Break – by Kyle Dosan. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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I am so glad that you had the opportunity to go on this trip last spring break. I am a senior and have never gone but I know the meaning of the trip from other people that have gone and the program it’s self. One thing that I like about it is that when you are volunteering you aren’t volunteering comfortably. It’s so important to understand the right way of volunteering and STFL hits that on the spot. I also like that you go see a variety of cities and environments to expose yourself to the types of volunteering that is needed. It is also important to note that this program is amazing but it’s only for a week and even though it may seem like you put in a lot of work, the actual labor probably didn’t make a difference in the city. In fact you probably got more out of it then the people in need. THIS IS OKAY! The important thing is that you are educated about these needs and are talking about it. We live in a society that visions volunteer work as the “savior ” and sometimes we are to busy making sure that image is shown that we don’t ask the community/ people what they need and just assume what they need.
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This trip sounds a lot more fun than what I did on spring break this past year which was just work. My favorite thing about the program that is mentioned is that it takes students to different areas to volunteer. I like this because you are able to help out in many areas instead of just one, where as most of the trips I here about only go to one location. Also that is a cool part of it because you get to travel and see parts of the country you may not have seen before. I’ve been blessed in my life to go on a lot of family vacations and have seen a lot of the country. This program interests me because I would like to do more traveling and it would be great to meet new people, and learn their stories along the way. This program sounds awesome and I hope is incorporated at many colleges because it gets help to a lot of places that need it.
It amazes me that you were able to do all that in just one week! I feel like I would’ve died on day three. This program seems like a really great way to meet people on campus that have similar ideas of community service. Plus with celebration day I bet that you met a lot of people from all over the place. This whole project just seems like an awesome experience because you were able to travel, help out communities, and meet new people all in just one week. Were there any times during the trip that you felt homesick since you have never really traveled that much and that far? Great Article! Thanks for sharing!
I can attest to unique opportunities that the Pay it Forward Tour provided, as I went on it too. Traveling from a traditional perspective appears simple, relaxing, and beneficial to the traveler. But, having been on the PIFT and other service trips, the benefits you can provide to the communities you travel to and the learning experience you get from the locals and their culture makes more of an impression on your life and others’. These types of trips not only provide community building with the team members and locals on the trip, but also after we return home and continue our relationships with one another on campus. STLF does a great job bringing students from all walks of life together to accomplish a common goal and to bring many different communities together. I found the PIFT very successful in many different aspects but one of the most important to me was learning about others lives and caring for their needs based on their wishes, not our own.
Kyle, this experience sounds amazing, and it is really cool that you are involved in Students Today Leaders Forever, because I actually learned about this club at the club fair in the Benedictine Commons the other day. This club is doing really great things, and I am interested in joining. I can only imagine the amazing people you met both on the volunteer sites and on the bus. These people must come from all different cultures, with different life experiences. It seems like this trip had a huge impact on you, and I would really like to experience a trip like this too. Not only were you helping others by volunteering, but you were able to explore some beautiful parts of the country, as I see in your photos.
I have heard other people talk about the PIFT as well, though I have never been on it myself. While I do see the benefit it traveling and doing service projects as it is definitely an important aspect to volunteering, I always think about the opportunities here too. Duluth has a Boys and Girls Club as well, which it seems like you really enjoyed working with on your trip, and that energy the kids gave you can be given here in Duluth too. Hopefully you can continue to do PIFTs and also volunteer here in Duluth.
If you really did love volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club then you should continue. I have worked at the Y for a few years now and there is something life altering about the energy that children produce. Travelling to other parts of the country or world is an amazing opportunity, but in the mean time there is always volunteer opportunities right in Duluth. Travelling that far and that fast can take a lot out of a person and it is great that PIFT keeps its volunteers on their feet and busy for a whole week. I agree that many times the best part about volunteering is the feeling that the volunteer gets after. Although short term volunteering does not make a lasting impact, I believe going back every spring break would. Glad you had a meaningful experience and hope you go again!
I also participated in this trip, and it was a wonderful experience. This was my second PIFT, so I knew what to expect. However, freshman year I got on the bus with no idea what I was getting into. I went on the PIFT because I wanted to go somewhere warm (it was Dallas that year) but didn’t have a lot of money. The best part of the trip ended up not being the places I we traveled, but rather the people I met. Everyone was friendly and accepting of new PIFTers. This trip also gave me an alternative view of spring break as a time to give back to communities rather than focusing on yourself.