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April 27, 2016
By Lee Volmer, media relations assistant
– A group of 20 Northwest Missouri State University students headed far from the comfort of their own homes or the beach during their spring break week and instead dedicated their time to assisting underprivileged residents of Washington D.C.
The members of Northwest's Alternative Spring Break (ASB) student organization worked with Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) on several community-based projects that placed an emphasis on assisting the homeless population.
B.J. Thomson, a junior from St. Joseph, Missouri, said the experience changed his perspective of people experiencing homelessness and food insecurities.
“At first I believed that many of the people experiencing homelessness were addicts but soon found out that they were normal people who had fallen on hard times in their lives,” Thomson said. “I was always told to not judge a book by the cover and during the trip I realized what that actually meant.”
|Northwest students help prepare a dinner for the homeless population of Washington, D.C.|
The students experienced a different worksite daily – from food banks to yard cleanup – and saw different sides of the issue of homelessness, poverty and hunger in the Washington, D.C., area.
Avery Broner, a freshman from Kearney, Missouri, said her experience helping with a service dinner particularly stood out.
“We got to prepare and serve 40 guests who were experiencing homelessness, and then we were able to sit down and talk with the guests,” Broner said. “I was able to really interact and see what a difference this one meal made.”
ASB is more than just volunteering. It also builds a sense of community among its members, students say. Though their spring break experience may sound unappealing to some college students, the Northwest students who participate in ASB wouldn’t want it another way.
“ASB humbled me,” Broner said. “It is so easy to get caught up in materialistic things and be focused on such petty things, but working at the service sites really showed me how blessed I am. I highly recommend giving ASB a try to anyone even slightly interested in going. I knew no one when I signed up, and by the end of the trip I had so many new friendships. It was hands downs one of the best weeks of my life.”
Founded at Northwest in 2006, ASB annually gives students the opportunity to participate in a week of service-learning and volunteering within a different environment. The mission of the organization is to provide a service learning opportunities for Northwest students while positively impacting the lives of themselves and others. ASB helps students grow through hands-on experiences that engage them in current issues and improve skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and leadership skills.
In addition to unique cultural experiences, ASB yields strong bonds among the students who participate.
“Giving students the opportunity to make an impact on a community, experience a different culture, step out of their comfort zone, meet new friends and gain leadership skills is a reward within itself,” Amy Nally, Northwest’s assistant director of student involvement and advisor of ASB, said.YSOP is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality volunteer service-learning experiences in metropolitan areas. It engages individuals in meaningful service experiences through an innovative program that combines a focus on issues with hands-on volunteer work and reflection. Each year, more than 4,000 volunteers participate in YSOP programs and serve more than 500,000 people experiencing homelessness and hunger.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468