Students engage in giving back
September 24, 2015
Summer 2015 boasted four service trip destinations: Montana, Appalachia, Baltimore, and Dominican Republic. Groups of students spent a week of their summers helping those in need.
Vice Principal of Academics Gary Scholl and five students participated at the Catholic Heart Workcamp in Ashland, Montana from July 12-20. They worked on a home on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation where they sanded and painted the back porch, did yard work, and painted the bathroom. Also, they cleaned inside the house and built a railing for the front porch.
According to senior Faith Ensor, the best part about the trip was growing closer as a group and being immersed in Native American culture. “There were definitely some bumpy times during the trip where we were basically surviving off of flavor-blasted goldfish and granola bars, but we made the best out of every situation we faced,” Ensor said.
Ensor says she gained perspective on how much appreciation the people had for the young people volunteering to help out over the summer. She explains that Edith, Tracy, and Mary Jane, natives who lived on the Northern Cheyenne reservation, got emotional when they spoke of their gratitude towards the volunteers.
“The people we worked with were amazing — I can honestly say I’ve never met such genuine, thoughtful, and thankful people before I met the Northern Cheyenne natives and the directors of our sister school, St. Labre, Emily and Tony,” Ensor said.
From June 21-27, campus minister Gary Meyerl and 11 students traveled to Appalachia, West Virginia. After being split up into six different worksites, they began work and repair on the houses for the families.
Junior Caity McComas helped install siding on a two-story house for a mother and her two daughters. “I became the main cutter, which means that I cut all of the wood for the work site using the different saws,” McComas said. One of the daughters and her mother would help pick up the trash, hand different tools to people whenever needed, and would bring fresh baked goods and cold drinks for the volunteers.
According to junior Mary Olsen, who assisted on last year’s trip, the faith of the people in Appalachia is amazing. “When you go down there, your eyes are opened so much and your understanding of others just grows,” Olsen said. “This year I learned more about how important teamwork is and being able to work well together to get the project finished for the family. Being able to finish a project for a family is one of the greatest feelings ever,” Olsen said.
At a local service trip, junior Emily Schiavone helped at St. Peter’s Adult Learning Center in Baltimore, which provides jobs and a place to go for adults with mental disabilities. Schiavone, along with a work group of more than 70 people, painted and remodeled rooms in the building and built benches for a neighborhood park located outside of M&T Bank Stadium.
Schiavone says her favorite part was when all the volunteers gathered together for a cookout to celebrate the completion of their jobs. They cooked extra food and invited others in the community to eat, play games, and spend time together.
“The Baltimore work camp is really such a special experience and program because it helps people who don’t have as much as we do live a better life and helps them with things that ordinarily wouldn’t be done without our volunteering,” Schiavone said.
Over a thousand miles away, religion teacher Thomas Vierheller and 13 students traveled to the Dominican Republic from June 13-20. Together, they built a cinder block house with a steel roof and indoor plumbing for a family with the organization Cambiando Vidas, which translates to “changing lives.”
Throughout this weeklong experience, junior Emily Stancliff says they made meaningful connections with the native community and with each other.
Senior Gabe Webster remembers one of the boys that he befriended named Wilma. One day after working, Webster and Wilma decided to practice “WWE style” wrestling moves to entertain the volunteers. “He reminded me of me when I was little because of his imagination and outgoing personality,” Webster said.
Senior Ellie Marindin also recalled a little boy that she befriended named Isa. “We got so close so fast without needing to speak any languages. I would get off the bus in the morning, and he would immediately rush to me and grab my hand,” Marindin said.
According to Vierheller, he and former religion teacher Elise Gower started this trip in June 2014 to help students realize lessons taught in religion classes can have a true and concrete impact on themselves by helping others.“We literally are helping to build the Kingdom of God,” Vierheller said.
“I think we were all affected by the poverty that these people lived in, but we found out that what they lacked in material substance, they made up for in heart,” Stancliff said. She explained how the community accepted them when they arrived and how the locals were very patient with them when they tried to communicate. “[The children] would walk alongside you and ask if you needed help, or they would grab your hands and ask you to play thumb wars or duck-duck-goose,” Stancliff said.
Webster says this trip has changed his life forever. “Since returning, I have really seen how much we, as a people, and I [especially] take for granted every little thing and how much people with less show so much more pure joy and excitement over the smaller blessings,” Webster said.
Caroline Cooney is an In-Focus Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.