In early March, students from Tusculum College’s Bonner Leader program participated in an alternative spring break that included a focus on service, rather than surf time.
The students took a trip to Orlando, Fla., where they stayed with members of the College Park Baptist Church and took part in activities that benefited the community. Due to the onset of snow, they arrived a day late to Florida but they were nonetheless excited to start their spring break and volunteering, according to Ronda Gentry, director of the Center for Civic Advancement at the college.
“The Orlando trip was a great experience,” said Megan Buczek, a junior education major from Chattanooga, Tenn. “Through this week not only did I grow in unexpected ways, but I had the honor of watching our group grow in the ways they care about the community and each other.”
Over the duration of their stay in Florida, they worked with the church and helped paint the building and remove wallpaper from the office. They also worked with the Give Kids the World Village, which is a vacation resort run mainly by volunteers for families whose children are suffering from life-threatening illnesses. For the families, the stay is free and many of the entrances to Orlando’s famous themes parks are as well.
The volunteering students got to operate rides for the children while others served dinner at the Gingerbread House. While they were there, they also worked with several non-profit organizations, including the Mustard Seed Foundation, which provides household items for those transitioning to homes or those who have lost everything due to a disaster.
“Coming together as a group and serving others outside Tusculum was a heart-filling experience that will be long-lived,” said Denise Coffey, a sophomore graphic arts major for Reagan.
The students were able to have a recreational day at Universal Studio’s Island of Adventure. They were able to explore the World of Harry Potter at Hogwarts, ride various roller coasters, shop for souvenirs and meet their favorite characters and some dinosaurs. On their day off they were asked about their Alternative Spring Break t-shirts which gave them an opportunity to share what they were doing and their other experiences at Tusculum College.
“It was great to spend my Spring Break doing something meaningful and memorable rather than having the usual Spring Break party experience,” said Josh Suttles, a sophomore environmental science major from Seymour, Tenn.
In addition to Buczek, Coffey and Suttles, other students participating included Kelsey Freeman, a sophomore psychology major from Johnson City; Brianna Werder, a junior education major from Greeneville; Amanda Werder, a freshman from New Market, Ala.; Morgan Jones, a sophomore criminal justice major from Winston, Ga.; Torrey Klee, a nursing major from Jonesborough; Noel Reed, a freshman psychology major from Church Hill;
Miranda Ferguson, a sophomore nursing major from Church Hill; James Ducker, a freshman athletic training major from Winter Park, Fla.; Jacob Hensley, a freshman from Mosheim; Michael Emery, a sophomore education major from Bean Station; Christian Howard, a special education major from Greeneville; Nicole Wilkerson, a sophomore English literature major from Loudon.; and Charlene Garner, a sophomore creative writing major from New Market, Ala. Gentry and Jonathan Calloway, program coordinator for the Center for Civic Advancement, also participated in the trip.
By Emily Watson, freshman creative writing major from Watauga