Senior general business major Kelsey Fulton was sitting in Student Life contemplating her spring break plan.
She wanted to use spring break to make a difference instead of partying.
“I hadn’t quite decided what I was going to do yet but I felt like I could maybe do something positive with that time,” Fulton said. “I just turned 21 but I’d rather use my spring break for service then lose it.”
Fulton and 11 other students will leave for New Orleans early March 13 to help out Hurricane Katrina victims through the spring break Break a Difference volunteering program. Break A Difference is a national program that encourages volunteerism by “young adults and students” to various locations during spring and winter breaks, according to breakadifference.org.
Barbara Barnhart, coordinator for service and volunteerism, said the trip costs students $100 each; the additional costs were covered by the budgets from Service and Volunteerism and Student Affairs.
Fulton said many Wesleyan students were interested in the trip to New Orleans.
“Barbara told me there were tons and tons of people that were interested in going,” Fulton said. “We are taking 12; other people are looking at making their own way to get down there so it’s been an outstanding turnout. It’s been an outstanding response and I’m really excited about that.”
Fulton wasn’t sure at first how many people would give up their break but she’s glad there’s other people interested in the service project she sparked.
“I was a little bit younger when (Hurricane Katrina) happened so I wasn’t in college and educated like I am now,” Fulton said, “but seeing all of the images pouring out of Katrina after it happened really struck a chord with me.”
According to Barnhart, Fulton had approached her at the beginning of the year about volunteering in New Orleans to provide disaster relief.
“I try to always support students and their passions,” Barnhart said. “This is obviously an area of concern so I kind of initiated that (the service trip to New Orleans).”
Barnhart worked to make the project happen during spring break because most students are available to go on long service projects at that time and she wanted to support Fulton’s passion.
“I think it’s a lot easier to do experiences on campus and I want to be more focused on doing those experiences on campus throughout the year, but I think this is truly the one opportunity you can get more than one individual together to go a longer distance,” Barnhart said. “Students here are working multiple jobs and they have lots of commitments and spring break is just a reasonable time to do some of those things.”
On this trip, students will be helping to do things like implementing a green initiative, feeding the homeless, and cleaning up trash and debris, Barnhart said. She hopes students will gain some cultural perspective and new relationships while enjoying the experience.
Junior bilingual education major Pamela Parra hopes to forge new relationships and try new things on this trip.
“I want to see the houses,” Parra said. “How they really look because they show them on TV but they don’t show the beat-down houses, the projects, things like that. Maybe it looks something like the neighborhood around Texas Wesleyan or maybe it doesn’t. I want to compare them and take in the beauty of history.”
Parra joined the trip after Wesleyan student Nancy Huynh told her about her experience on last year’s trip to Arkansas.
“She told me it’s different than what you do here in the city so that caught my attention along with being able to meet people there,” Parra said. “I don’t really know anybody so I’d like to get to know some people and do something that’s not normal.”
While both Parra and Fulton are excited to volunteer, they also want to explore the culture.
“The selfish side of me says I want to see all the culture and the food,” Fulton said. “The volunteer side of me says I’m excited to make some connections and hopefully make an impact that’s going to last more than just a week later.”
Barnhart said there are definitely plans for trip during next year’s spring break.
“It is my intent to continue this for as long as we can do it, as long as we can fund it, and as long as we can sustain it,” Barnhart said. “I think this is just a general good practice for every year but my hope for next year is to bring more students.”
Fulton hopes to have a successful trip so the alternative spring break trips continue.
“Even if it’s not to New Orleans for Katrina victims that are still rebuilding, there’s a lot of areas across the nation that could really use some help,” Fulton said. “Even in just our Southern area, there’s a lot of cities that still have problems with unemployment, child literacy, homelessness. There’s a lot of areas that we can make an impact.”