Brittney Carpio, Vanessa McNeal and Shaney Esparza work to combat hunger by making chicken burgers with onion and celery at Campus Kitchens in St. Louis. Contributed photo.
Brittney Carpio, Vanessa McNeal and Shaney Esparza work to combat hunger by making chicken burgers with onion and celery at Campus Kitchens in St. Louis. Contributed photo.

Students spend winter break helping those in need

At least seven Iowa State University College of Human Sciences students spent a week of their winter break in Missouri or Illinois, doing service projects aimed at helping those in need.

Some went to St. Louis, where they worked with Campus Kitchens to prepare food and help alleviate poverty, hunger, and homelessness. Others went to Chicago, where they worked with Misericordia to help people with developmental disabilities.

"It was a huge way to serve a community that wasn't mine, so I could go out of my comfort zone and make an impact," said Vanessa McNeal of Davenport, a sophomore majoring in child, adult, and family services who took the trip to St. Louis.

Amy Fitzjarrald of Dunfermline, Ill., a graduate assistant in the School of Education who coordinates a tutoring program at the Academic Success Center, was one of two facilitators on the St. Louis trip.

"Learning how to build a community is one of the biggest things I've taken away," Fitzjarrald said. "Normally, I've not been too much of an outgoing person. But the students wouldn't have known that. I really put myself out there."

Iowa State is in its seventh year of organizing "alternative breaks," where students do service projects during spring break.

This is the first year that students took such a trip during winter break. Nicholas Morton, general co-chairman of Alternative Breaks, said this was a good time to expand the popular program because of the extra week of winter break this year. The trip attracted 92 applicants for 18 student spots.

"On an Alternative Break,  students will get the opportunity to put their education into action," Morton said. "This is where the knowledge meets the hard work. Students will get to hear firsthand the problems in dealing with several social issues and how they can help solve these issues."

Fitzjarrald and McNeal were among 11 people on the St. Louis trip, along with Shaney Esparza, a junior majoring in early childhood education.

McNeal said a human development and family studies class taught her about service learning. But she described the hands-on experience of helping people in need as "priceless."

Students prepared meals ranging from salads to chicken burgers, jambalaya, and desserts for the elderly, low-income, and people with disabilities. They also worked with Food Outreach to provide free food and nutritional services to people with HIV/AIDS or cancer, and helped at Karen's House, a shelter for homeless women.

"I think it enhanced my empathy skills," said McNeal, who said she plans to minor in criminal justice and wants to be a police officer. "It just made me aware of a lot of the issues that need service and love and support."

Erin Gilmour, a sophomore in child, adult, and family services; Jessica Pearce, a senior majoring in kinesiology and health; Kaitlyn Flick, a junior in kinesiology and health; and Ryan McConnell, a graduate assistant in the School of Education; were among the 11 who went to Chicago.

"Every student gets a different experience out of these alternative breaks but no matter what, they will come back a changed person," Morton said. "For some, it’s a new perspective on life and for others, it’s a change in major or career choice."

Contacts:

Nicholas Morton, general co-chairman, Alternative Breaks, 641-919-6260, namorton@iastate.edu

Lynn Campbell, communications specialist, Iowa State University College of Human Sciences, 515-294-3689, lynnc@iastate.edu

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    Some College of Human Sciences students just returned from St. Louis or Chicago, where they did service projects aimed at helping those in need. This was the university’s first “alternative break” during winter break. The popular program is usually held during spring break.


  • “On an Alternative Break, students will get the opportunity to put their education into action. This is where the knowledge meets the hard work. Students will get to hear firsthand the problems in dealing with several social issues and how they can help solve these issues.”

    Nicholas Morton