Students Spend Spring Break Serving the Nation's Capital
A group of 14 Penn State DuBois students, joined by, fellow students from Penn State New Kensington and University Park completing various service projects in Washington D.C. on their spring break this year. In all, 19 students traveled to the nation's capital to volunteer for a week at food banks, homeless shelters, and more.
The trip was coordinated by the campus office of Student Life, with Amizade, a nonprofit organization based in Pittsburgh. The goals of the program are to expose students to poverty and homelessness, and dispel stereotypes associated with these groups. It is also intended to educate students on the scale of issues such as homelessness and poverty in America. Through this alternative spring break trip, students are exposed to as many different services as possible and learn how each service addresses the issues of poverty and homelessness differently. Upon returning from the trip, the students are required to create two social change projects in their own community, surrounding the issues covered through this experience in Washington D.C.
Specifically, students volunteered at DC Central Kitchen, Thrive DC, Interfaith Works, A Wider Circle, Capital Area Food Bank, and Central Union Mission. Penn State DuBois also collaborated with the National Coalition for the Homeless on an outreach program in which students delivered donated items to homeless individuals. Items were collected by the campus Service Above Self Club.
"Through this experience, students were given the opportunity to engage with an invisible population," said Marly Doty, assistant director of Student Affairs, who led students on the trip. "These people typically go days without so much as even hearing their name. I'm energized and enthusiastic for the change these students are capable of creating."
By volunteering on the front lines in the war on homelessness, students learned quickly just how large the impact of poverty can be. For instance, the Capital Area Food Bank alone distributes 45 Million pounds of food every year, and serves approximately 500,000 people annually.
"It was amazing," said student Joe Shields of his experience. "The trip was not only fun but it presented opportunities to learn about myself as person. It also allowed me to see, first-hand, the struggles that individuals living in poverty experience on a daily basis. As a senior, the trip also expanded the number of career paths that are available after graduation."
"The whole D.C. experience was phenomenal for me. It was honestly one of the best weeks of my entire life," said student Austin Sabatucci. "I realized on the trip that many of the stereotypes that we hear about people who are homeless are wrong. It was a major eye-opening experience for me, and it makes me want to get more involved doing service in my own community. It felt incredible to serve individuals other than myself, and I still cannot stop thinking about all of our wonderful experiences."