Students get involved in summer service programs

Senior Kelsey Mueller facepaints during her mission trip to Nicaragua in the summer of 2011. “It was a really humbling expereince,” Mueller said. “These kids got so excited over playdough and facepainting,whereas kids in America really only focus on how much expensive stuff they have.”

Because summer is a break from the stresses of school and sports, many students consider it a great time to complete their service hours. Some students are going above and beyond by participating in mission trips that completely immerse them in an impoverished area.

The Nicaragua Immersion Trip

This program initially worked only through  Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Parish, but this year they encouraged all McNicholas upperclassmen to join. After applying, twelve students were accepted: seniors Melina Hazzard, Kerry Morrow, and Gretchen Semancik, and juniors Sarah Bouley, Matt Forsthoefel, Kate Gorman, Anna Heineke, Olivia Laing, Ali Miller, Anna Sarra, Kathryn Scheidler, and Matt Szucsik. The students will travel to Nicaragua from June 7-14, where they will work closely with a community center that works to educate and assist its members.

“The community center does things for both the young and old,” said senior Kelsey Overley, who participated in the mission trip last year. “For young people, it focuses on keeping them off the street and out of trouble. It also teaches them respect and responsibility through things like recycling. For adults, the center helps them implement natural skills to use in a business, such as sewing or cooking. They also offer English classes, which allow them to work in tourism.”

In preparation for their journey, the students must get multiple vaccinations and be prepared for a completely different lifestyle.

“To keep me healthy, I had to get three different shots and will take a pill right before I leave,”  Forsthoefel said. “The program has also done a lot to make sure we’re aware of their lifestyle. I had to write an essay on mango exports, and have received a lot of information. I’m very excited for the trip; I’ve never been this far out of the country, and I’m interested to see the landscape and how the people live.”

Young Neighbors in Action

Members of the St. Andrew Youth Group, including McNick junior Jessica Osterday and sophomore Maddie White, will take this mission trip from June 23-30.  The members will travel to Our Lady of Victory Parish in Chicago, Illinois to work with the community. Once there, they will split into groups, each with its own week-long work project. The projects will focus on one of three things: direct service like soup kitchens and help centers, a division of time between direct service and repairing buildings, or working with Habitat for Humanity (or a similar organization). The program begins early each day with a wake-up call at 6:30 a.m. and activities running until 11 p.m. every night, so that they are able to get as much done as possible.

Even though these trips are finalized, there are still plenty of opportunities for interested students. Listed below is  information about two programs Director of Campus Ministry Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth recommends.

Rooted in the Vine

Formerly known as TACKLE (Teens Advocating Change through Knowledge, Leadership, and Experience), Rooted in the Vine is a six day immersion program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Offices of Youth & Young Adult Ministry and Catholic Social Action and the St. Vincent de Paul Ozanam Center for Service Learning.

During their time at St. Vincent de Paul, students will experience a variety of “immersion activities” such as daily prayer and reflection, meeting with agencies for justice, helping to build a community, and hosting a neighborhood event. Any student graduating in the classes of 2012-2015 is eligible, and the event will take place from July 15-July 20. The deadline for applications is May 25, and the costs cover food, lodging, materials, and transportation. Click here for an application.

JUST Community Youth Leadership Institute

Although this opportunity falls  after the summer on Sept. 13-16, it’s important to start thinking about it now since the program encourages students to gather a group to attend. The site asks for 10-15 students and 2 advisers to represent their school so that the lessons learned have a good chance of being spread to the whole school. JUST Community helps teens establish a positive atmosphere for themselves and their peers by teaching respect. The program works with groups to come up with a plan specific to their school’s needs. The goal is for students to go back and implement this plan in their community. For more details and registration materials, go to this site or contact Shawn Jeffers at .

“Even though they encourage groups, I was able to go by myself last summer,” senior Christine Foster said. “It was a nice experience to get to know people from other schools, and I would recommend it. I learned a lot about leadership, trust, and social statuses.”

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