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Students to volunteer on week away from school

Maureen Mullen | Friday, March 10, 2006

While many Notre Dame students will be spending their spring break enjoying a sunny beach vacation, others plan to dedicate their week to service.

Students will take part in a variety of service projects through several different campus organizations.

The Center for Social Concerns has offered students the opportunity to participate in the usual seminars organized annually for the week of spring break. Twelve students will attend the Washington Seminar which “examines ethical and public policy issues in science and technology,” a CSC press release read.

The very popular CSC Appalachia Seminar has attracted 150 participants who “will serve and learn at 16 sites in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee,” according to the press release.

The L’Arche Community Seminar allows students to live amongst the disabled for the week. The CSC’s Migrant Experiences Seminar similarly exposes students to the lifestyle of migrant workers by having them live and work among migrants in Florida.

The Holy Cross Mission Seminar in Coachella is a program co-sponsored with Campus Ministry and “will explore ministries of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the Coachella region of California,” according to CSC’s press release.

The Children and Poverty Seminar will expose 13 students to the issues of youth, risk and poverty in New York City, visiting UNICEF and other agencies, said the release.

New to the CSC’s spring break service learning agenda is a trip entitled “Environmental Justice and Human Rights in the Aftermath of Katrina.” This seminar was designed by Najarian Peters, a graduate student from New Orleans, and is supported by the CSC and the Department of Africana Studies as well as a donor, said Angela Miller McGraw, director of the Appalachia Seminar and educational immersions for the CSC.

Peters, along with nine other students, will explore environmental and human rights issues prominent in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

All CSC seminars are programs not only about service, but also about learning, McGraw said.

“They are immersion experiences that require preparatory work and study and function in a way that makes the world our classroom,” McGraw said.

Though the CSC provides interested students with a diverse mix of several projects to choose from, other individual students and student groups have taken the initiative to organize their own spring break service projects.

Notre Dame College Democrats have, like Peters, coordinated a group trip to the Gulf Coast taking them to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Their trip will join with “Opportunity Rocks 2006: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast” – a program for college students from across the country to travel to the New Orleans area and join former Senator John Edwards in helping to clean up and rebuild in the aftermath of Katrina, said the ND College Democrat’s press release.

Another New Orleans trip has been organized by sophomore Caity Schneeman. Schneeman traveled to New Orleans over winter break with a group of friends and did reconstruction service work. Stirred by her experience there, she decided to return and continue to volunteer, teaming up with Catholic Charities in the rebuilding effort. This time, she’s joined by an even larger group of students than before.

Schneeman said this spring break trip has been made possible by grants from the University and support from the Notre Dame alumni club of New Orleans.

“When we left [after the winter break trip] I felt like I was abandoning [New Orleans],” Schneeman said. “I needed to bring the story of New Orleans to Notre Dame because it seems that we forget what happened there so quickly.”

“Now that we’re returning with more volunteers than before, I do see how important it was for me to tell people here about my experience in New Orleans and then bring help back.”