Many college students take it easy during spring break. A group of 19 Idaho State University students did not.
They flew to Atlanta and are spending their break working for community service organizations, including a center for homeless children. The students say it has given them a new outlook.
Community service center director Linda Burke said the goal is for the students to return to Pocatello with greater sympathy for others and ideas for working in their own communities. The project continues through the end of this week.
“It has been a real eye opener for all of us,” Burke said. “It’s been really interesting. We’ve shared a lot. We’ve done a lot of reflecting.”
The project was sponsored by the Idaho State community service center and funded by ISU and the volunteers. Georgia Tech donated its gymnasium, where the students have been sleeping, and scheduled projects.
The Idaho State students worked at a homeless shelter and painting houses, restoring trails and visiting elderly people. They’ve served meals, tutored homeless children, passed out food and sung songs with them.
They say their experiences have opened their eyes to the differences between urban and rural poverty.
“I was really interested in going to a different community to see what we can do,” junior Sherry Gallagher said in a telephone interview, during a break from doing restoration work along the Chattahoochee Trail.
Like many of the other students, Gallagher is an active community volunteer. In Pocatello she hasn’t had to face the effects of extreme poverty on real people.
“I had never really met a homeless person before,” she said.
Junior Jennifer Briggs was struck by the same vast difference between her life and the lives of those she has befriended this week. After Briggs left the homeless shelter, she knew she would be “whipping out the credit card while they don’t even have money to buy food.”