Student volunteers choose a different kind of spring break, explore new city

by | Apr 10, 2017

Spring break typically conjures images of beaches and naps, but it was all about service for eight Tritons who traveled to Indiana during their recent week off.
Alternative Spring Break 2017

A group of eight UMSL students including Darionne Hardaway (at left) and Tabitha Milon assisted over 300 families at Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis, Indiana, during their Alternative Spring Break trip last month. (Photos courtesy of Brandi Fields)

Spring break is perhaps most commonly associated with things like beaches and sleep. But for one University of Missouri–St. Louis group, the recent week off from class was all about service, learning and teamwork.

During the last week of March, eight UMSL students traveled to Indiana to lend a hand in the Indianapolis community. More than 200 children and 300 families interacted with the Tritons during their trip, which was organized by the Office of Student Involvement.

“I thought Alternative Spring Break was a perfect opportunity for me to spend my spring break productively,” said nursing major Joy Kuebee, who also relished the chance to explore a city that was new to her and several other participants. “My time in Indiana sort of opened my eyes when it came to giving back to the community.”

Alternative Spring Break 2017

During a break from various service projects in the community, the students enjoyed an Indiana Pacers game. Pictured (from left) are trip participants Aleathea Williams, Imani Reid, Joy Kuebee, Brandi Fields, Ysaye Ellis, Tabitha Milon and Darionne Hardaway.

The students spent their first full day volunteering at a local Boys and Girls Club where the youth, ranging in age from 4 to 16, were eager to interact with them.

On spring break themselves, the children proved a lively bunch.

“I loved it and really wanted to go back,” said Brandi Fields, president of UMSL’s Associated Black Collegians. “You could tell they really enjoyed our presence.”

The group spent another full day of service at Gleaners Food Bank serving more than 300 families.

“Gleaners was a great organization, and it was so organized,” Fields added. “Everyone who came in to shop for food for their families was so appreciative and nice, and I would be laughing and joking with everyone. That way I at least know I helped them look on the bright side of things despite whatever situation they might be in.”

Coordinated by graduating senior Darryl Downing, the Alternative Spring Break trip was the most important project Downing was assigned in his role as OSI student program manager this year, he said, and he’s particularly grateful to staff members Jessica Long-Pease and Ashlee Roberts for entrusting him with it.

“I hope the students took away from this trip that serving is not always glamorous,” Downing said. “One must be willing to serve not for self-aggrandizement but for helping those who are less fortunate than themselves. Furthermore, maybe this will be the catalyst for the students to continue to be active in their local communities and campus and become servant-leaders.”

To hear the participants tell it, those goals were definitely met. Kuebee learned a lot about United Way and now hopes to secure an internship with the organization. She also was impressed with the insights and sense of urgency among her classmates.

Alternative Spring Break 2017

Indianapolis’ Keenan-Stahl Boys and Girls Club was busy with youth who enjoyed their spring break alongside the visiting UMSL students. “I was able to connect with them on a mentorship-type level, discuss college and dreams, and give advice based on my experience,” said sophomore Aleathea Williams.

“I personally enjoyed hearing Tabitha Milon passionately talking about her concerns with homelessness and what it is she plans to do to make a change,” Kuebee said.

Sophomore Aleathea Williams especially appreciated connecting with the Boys and Girls Club youth.

“The students were primarily African American youth, and I was able to connect with them on a mentorship-type level, discuss college and dreams, and give advice based on my experience,” said Williams, a political science major at UMSL. “I felt like I was assisting in building future-generation leaders. I also enjoyed exploring Indiana.”

The students did find some time for sightseeing, with stops at Lucas Oil Stadium, a famous Kountry Kitchen restaurant, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Landmark for Peace Memorial.

Getting to watch an Indiana Pacers game was a major highlight.

“I had never been to an NBA basketball game before, so being able to go to one was basically the cherry on top for me,” Kuebee said.

Darionne Hardaway, a psychology major and Gallery 210 student assistant at UMSL, summed the trip up as “just a great experience” and a chance to positively impact others, which was exactly what she was hoping for when she decided to sign up.

While working with the youth and others throughout the Indianapolis community, she was struck by the excitement, smiles and gratitude.

“It’s always an eye-opener for me to realize that sometimes simple things are the ones that matter the most,” Hardaway said.

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill