Most students look forward to spring break as a time to relax at home or hit the beach. But this year, some TCU students chose to spend their week off giving back, either locally in Fort Worth or out of the country.
Erin Taylor, a senior social work and religion double major, volunteers 32 hours a week with Catholic Charities, an organization whose goal is to reduce poverty in the U.S., as part of an internship for social work. Taylor works with the homeless as part of the Street Outreach Services Team.
“We go into the woods or we climb under bridges and go to abandoned buildings to find people who sleep outside or in their cars,” Taylor said.
The volunteers bring blankets, bottled water, bus passes and hygiene products to homeless in the area. Taylor said TCU students should make an effort to get out and volunteer in the community.
“I think from a TCU perspective we kind of live in our own little bubble, in our own TCU world,” she said. “And whenever we’re able to get out and see other types of people and other versions of reality it helps us get a better grasp of the community around us.”
Taylor also said giving back to the community was a good way to live out TCU’s mission statement.
“Especially if you want to be an ethical leader in a global community, it helps us broaden our perspective of the global community,” she said.
Taylor said it would be great to have more students get involved over the break, either with a TCU-sponsored volunteer opportunity or with Catholic Charities.
“I would highly encourage them to do it,” Taylor said.
She said anyone could find a volunteer opportunity or program that appealed to them.
“I work with the homeless department, but there’s also refugee services, foster care, health care and financial assistance,” she said. “Pretty much anything you would want to get involved with, there’s an opportunity to do it [through Catholic Charities].”
Rosangela Boyd, TCU’s director of Community Involvement and Service-Learning, said a number of students were volunteering through TCU during the break. The opportunities for students include a trip to Georgia to work with Habitat for Humanity, as well as an opportunity to work with the homeless in Tarrant County and a international trip to do community development in Nicaragua.
“I think students are looking for meaningful ways to use their time,” she said.
Boyd said more students were getting involved in volunteering, and that this year at new student orientation, the majority of students had participated in community service experience in high school.
“I believe it’s becoming more a part of the culture for this generation, that they want to see what they do having an impact,” Boyd said. “It’s not going to be everyone, but there is always a group there that will see that as having more meaning than sunbathing on the beach.”
Boyd said many students are choosing to volunteer over the break as a way to meet people or spend time with their friends.
“It’s not like you’re going by yourself and doing forced labor,” she said. “That sense of community, of sharing it with people who have the same interests as you have, I think is a big draw.”
Boyd said her hope was that spring break volunteer opportunities would encourage students to stay involved throughout the school year.
“By participating for that week and becoming engaged they will come back with the motivation to continue to [volunteer] locally,” she said.
Some students also go abroad to volunteer in other communities.
Leah Richardson, a junior political science major said, Tepeyac is a community in Nicaragua and is a spring break destination for TCU students eager to volunteer wherever they are needed. Richardson said this will be the third year that she has gone on the trip. She said helping others has to be the best way to spend a week off of school.
Richardson said while in Nicaragua they will work with local people to develop goals for meeting the needs of the community. Richardson and others who volunteer will work to improve the education, health and other aspects of life for the people of the village, she added.
“I think it is a great opportunity to do volunteer work and visit a different country.” Richardson said. “I enjoy giving back to those who are less fortunate and learning about another culture.”