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Students partake in service seminars over fall break

Kelly Meehan | Wednesday, October 26, 2005

While some students may view fall break’s purpose as rest and relaxation, many others use their time off to better themselves and their communities through volunteer work.

The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) offers students a variety of seminar options that allow students to participate in a weeklong service-learning immersion during break. This year, the CSC offered the Gospel of Life Seminar, Washington Seminar on Health Care in America, Global Health Initiative Seminar, Cultural Diversity Seminar and the Gullah Seminar, along with their most popular Appalachia Seminar.

Sophomore political science major Katie McHugh went to Washington, D.C. as part of the Washington Seminar on Health Care in America with 17 other students to listen to political representatives and independent groups discuss issues surrounding prescription drug plans and rising costs.

“Most [students] who went on this trip are pre-med or biology majors who wanted to figure out how health care issues would affect them in the future,” McHugh said. “I went because I wanted to learn more about the issue, and clarify where I stand on [government] prescription plan policies.”

The CSC seminars are not students’ only opportunity to volunteer during fall break.

ACE staff representative Tony DeSapio worked with 17 Notre Dame students to help reconstruct five ACE schools in the towns of Biloxi and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

“Students took away a lot from this project,” DeSapio said. “They witnessed what people are sacrificing to keep these schools going.”

The group volunteered at schools located further from the coast that had recovered from Katrina’s wrath. They also aided in the rebuilding process for schools that were completely destroyed.

Due to the success of this trip, ACE has committed to doing a similar trip each fall in one of the 30 cities where their schools are located.

“Our program really makes an impact when [students] comes into an area that can use our help,” DeSapio said.

Sophomore David Gruener felt a strong urge to volunteer in New Orleans after he witnessed the damage done to the area. He was able to completely gut and repair a church in New Orleans with a group of volunteers from his home state of Washington.

The group chose to repair the church to give community members a focal point of hope when everything else seems hopeless.

“The trip was amazing. It was a very humbling experience to see all of the devastation down in New Orleans. Being able to help in any way possible was a blessing,” Gruener said.