Students to help homeless in D.C. over spring break

The stereotypical college spring break either involves vacations to exotic locales or hot dates with Netflix.

However, for a group of Wichita State students, spring break 2015 will be about working with Washington, D.C.’s homeless population as part of an alternative spring break trip being organized by Student Involvement. The trip is March 15-21.

The collaborative program between Student Involvement and a nonprofit organization called Youth Service Opportunities Project seeks to immerse students in communities different from their own by providing aid to different groups in need in cities across the country.

Chelsea Redger, assistant director of Student Involvement, said she sees it as a worthwhile way to spend spring break.

“I think it’s one of the most rewarding programs a campus can offer their students,” Redger said. “It asks students to give themselves, to give up their time and their resources, to go help a community in need.”

Last year’s trip members went to New Orleans to help with hurricane relief, but the participants never got to work directly with those in need. This year, they will be doing direct service at food banks and homeless shelters every day, with a little bit of time for fun and sightseeing.

Redger said she is looking forward to having direct involvement with the homeless and listening to their stories.

“A lot of times, the homeless population, they’re working homeless, they’re just not making a livable or affordable wage,” Redger said. “It’s such an impactful experience.”

WSU students Stephanie Merritt and Kim Do went on the trip to New Orleans. Merritt said one of the biggest lessons she learned was about teamwork.

“For the most part, we all didn’t know each other,” Merritt said. “It was just the dynamics of a group of 15, 16 of us going, learning how to work together and complete a project.”

Do, who has done humanitarian work outside of the alternative spring break program, said she does not feel like she is losing much by devoting spring break to this kind of work.

“I can go out anytime I want during the year,” Do said. “The opportunity to just leave all my worries behind and be truly selfless for a week was really, really inspiring.”

Though it is too late for students to sign up and go on this year’s trip, Do recommends that anyone who wants to get involved look into it next year.

“I think it says a lot about character,” Do said. “It’s definitely a life-changing experience, and it’s a life-changing perspective that you gain from things like this.”

Those who want to follow along can read updates and blog posts from the trip at