Students give back during break

Spring Break offers Tech students a chance to get away from the stresses of school for a week. Students traveled to many different places ranging from home to the beach, involving themselves in a range of activities wherever they went.

Several Tech organizations took students on Spring Break trips. The Christian Campus Fellowship (CCF) journeyed to Juarez, Mexico where they helped build homes in an impoverished community.

“It was amazing how adequate a 220 square foot house was for the family, and how thankful they were for it, while most of us live in much larger houses and still want more space and more material possessions,” said Morgan Chislett, a first-year UACA.

She also described how much fun they had while accomplishing community service.

“Seriously, we drove to freaking Mexico for Spring Break. How awesome is that,” said Dean Landers, an ME undergraduate student.

The students also described their emotional experience in service and volunteer work.

“I definitely went into Juarez expecting to be the one doing the service, but I came away realizing that I was the one who had been done the greater service…the love that I feel when I am in Mexico is penetrating, straight to the heart,” said Laura Sims, a third-year IE.

“Juarez was an eye-opening experience. It’s easy to forget how privileged we are, but when you are presented with the extreme poverty there it forces one to appreciate where we are,” Landers said.

This trip to Mexico was not CCF’s first. They went last year as well and comparatively saw a difference in the community in the one year they were gone.

“This year’s site was next to the site we did last year, so it was amazing to see the impact we had on the family…and now their neighbors. I hope that this change continues so that in the future I can come back to a completely different Juarez,” said Stephanie Solis, a third-year HTS.

CCF was not the only Tech organization to go somewhere on Spring Break. Trailblazers also ventured outside Georgia, but went to three distinct places by going in different groups. The groups went to Virginia, Florida and California. Members Tyler Pate, a second-year EE, and Sydney Shaffer, a second-year ChBE, went to two different locations with Trailblazers.

“On two of the nights we went bushwhacking to the top of some mountains…and took pictures from the top as the sun set on southern California. The climbs were really worth it and for those who braved the top of the mountains, it was a really memorable experience,” Pate said.

Trailblazers is an organization for the promotion of outdoor service, exploration and adventure. They organize alternative breaks and local service projects to help facilitate outdoor activities.

The service projects over Spring Break included erosion control, creating water drains, working on rock formations, painting markers and cutting new paths, to name a few.

“The work was hard, but fulfilling,” Shaffer said, noting that the service was both helpful to the community and fun for the participants.

Pate, who ran the trip in San Diego, California, told about the four days of work and subsequent three days of adventure.

The projects were on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs from Mexico to Canada. Trailblazers worked on 20 miles of the PCT.

For the adventure part, members embarked on a 30 mile hike north on the PCT.

“From a holistic point of view, the best part of the trip for me was seeing nine months of planning and preparation come together to form such a memorable experience. The backpacking, the service, the surfing, the camaraderie—all the parts added together made all the time spent preparing for the trip pay off in a way that a salary or a paycheck never could,” Pate said.

Shaffer was the leader for the group that went to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

They worked with the Potomac Appalachian Trial Club in Shenandoah National Park. The group’s service involved trail work as well as some time for adventure, just like the group in California.

“From skinning the wood to hoisting the logs with pulleys up steep slopes to digging the trenches for placement, we all earned are shares of blisters and the teamwork it took to pull this all off was amazing,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer and Pate both emphasized the rigorous planning involved, but enjoyed the eventual outcome. One of the issues with planning was of course the itinerary, so that the Trailblazers would be doing something both unique and affordable for students.

“Each of the locations was simply beautiful with unique natural environments such as mountains, marshes, wildlife and beaches…that enhanced the adventure part of the trip. It feels so good to push ourselves to the max for something so worthwhile—other than our classes of course,” Shaffer said.

These experiences are available to all Tech students and even faculty and staff. To learn more about CCF and Trailblazers, go to www.gtccf.org and cyberbuzz.gatech.edu/Trailblazers.