By Priscilla Aguirre
LOGOS ASSISTANT EDITOR
While most University of the Incarnate Word students were relaxing during spring break, others were helping the community by repainting two homes March 11-14 on San Antonio’s west side.
Students, faculty and non-students had the opportunity to volunteer for six hours on the homes of two different families near Frank Garrett Community Center during the seventh annual Alternative Spring Break.
“The students are getting several values of what real life is like,” said David Espinoza, student engagement coordinator for the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership, which works with the sponsoring Office of Mission and Ministry on the project.
Mission and Ministry and other faculty members find the homes that need assistance. For the past several years the program has stayed in the same community, fixing one house at a time.
“Mission and Ministry and the Ettling Center have a lot of partnerships with groups and organizations,” Espinoza said. “We stay at the location because we know the resources are there. When you have something well-structured, you continue to make it grow.”
At 8:30 each morning, the students met on campus in front of Alice McDermott Convocation Center and boarded a shuttle with Sister Walter Maher, vice president of Mission and Ministry, and faculty volunteers. They were shuttled to Frank Garrett Community Center for a light breakfast and to meet other people who took time out to provide service. Around 30 students signed up to help along with the Cardinals softball team.
After breakfast, volunteers loaded up the shuttle and trucks with equipment to take to the two houses where they worked until 1:30 p.m. for the return trip to the center for lunch and a time to share their reflections about the day’s work before cleaning up and returning to campus on the shuttle.
Fifty volunteers started that Monday by scrapping old paint off the homes, one larger than the other. The softball team helped out on the bigger house and by the end of the day it was ready to get primed.
“The first day I saw a young boy about 8 or 9 helping,” Espinoza said. “One of the best visuals I had was seeing Sister Walter right alongside this young man scrapping paint together. One generation with another generation doing service for someone else.”
The next day the smaller house was scrapped while the larger house was being painted. Due to the weather, some work was delayed but by the time Friday came around both houses were painted and fixed.
“I was able to meet a few residents of the houses and they were grateful for having us be there,” Espinoza said. “What we did does make the neighborhood different. It keeps it maintained and restored.”
Some students said they learned how to scrap houses while others said it made them feel grateful for what they had.
“I saw one of the owners of the house that I was helping and she was super-nice,” student Maria Gonzales said. “I plan on graduating soon so I’m glad I participated in this before I do.”
Because of Alternative Spring Break, “the students are getting several values of what real life is like,” Espinoza said. “This Alternative Spring Break was a different perspective of fun. It provided engagement and education for what you can do for others. Service is the history of UIW and we are all trying to show the students that. Seeing it firsthand in action was much different than hearing about it. All the work we are doing together is making a difference. We are building on that and learning from it. At this time the students develop that skill in doing something while helping out the community. I encourage people to try it at least once while you’re here. You never know what to expect but if you don’t try it, you may never know at all.”
“I did this for community service hours but I learned a lot doing this,” student Selena Gonzales said. “I met a lot of people and that was pretty cool. I want to come back and do it again.”
NEXT: Arise Emerging Trip
For a summer project, the Ettling Center of Civic Leadership has the Arise Emerging Trip.
The weeklong trip takes students in the summer to the Rio Grande Valley to help youth in the community. Transportation is provided. Students can sign up on the Ettling Center website. Questions can be answered at the Ettling office on the first floor of the Administration Building.
“We’ve had very good reflection of experiences from this trip in the past,” said David Espinoza, student engagement coordinator for the Ettling Center. “There is so much need for help everywhere. If a student has an idea, we take that into consideration. We are really about people coming together and engaging.”