Service Trips: An Exclusive Opportunity

by Daniel Willis

Being part of a team that’s doing something constructive is a great way to get to know people.

For decades, Loras College has hosted service trips to a variety of locations within the United States and overseas. Loras was recently the first college or university in the nation to be recognized with the Presidential Award for Interfaith Community Service by the Corporation for National & Community Service.

The organizers of this year’s service trips are Chris Cochran, Coordinator of Service and Programing for Spiritual Life, and seniors Polly Christensen and Rachel Prendergast.

In past years, the students who have taken these trips have found them to be beneficial in many ways. Many students have taken more than one trip during their time here. In fact, says Cochran, this year the majority of applicants, “have been on previous trips, unless they’re a first year or sophomore.”

According to Christensen, “I’ve heard some seniors say ‘I shouldn’t have waited until last year to do my first service trip. I should have started earlier.’ ”

Some of these trips can lead to opportunities for students after graduation. As Christensen noted, a service trip can be “an opportunity to start making those connections outside of Loras.” She added: “It definitely can be a starting point for students if they invest in volunteering for an organization and form relationships with people there.”

Of her trip to Washington, DC, Prendergast said, “It was a really cool experience to meet people who are really using their lives in a way that will hopefully bring about change.”

Listed are the trips that are scheduled this year:

  • Fall Free Days: Dubuque; working with area nonprofit agencies.
  • Thanksgiving Break: McKee, Kentucky; working with the elderly and serving a Thanksgiving meal.
  • J-Term: Morton, Mississippi; working with low income elementary and middle school students.
  • J-Term: New Orleans; working on coastal restoration.
  • Spring Break: New Orleans; rebuilding houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
  • Spring Break: Denver, Colorado; working with ministries to the homeless.
  • Spring Break: San Diego, California/Tijuana, Mexico; working with at-risk young adults.
  • Spring Break: Washington, DC; with a focus on peacemaking — including helping school-age children learn strategies for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

The Dubuque trip, the New Orleans J-term trip, the Denver trip, and the San Diego trip are new this year.

The standard cost to the student for one of these trips is $375. The Dubuque trip, with a cost of $125, is an exception, as is the San Diego trip, with an approximate cost of $1,000. But Cochran says, “If cost were a concern for a student they should come talk to us … We don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t go on a trip because they can’t afford it.”

Except for the Dubuque trip, the time commitment for a trip is about a week (Saturday through Friday). The Dubuque trip will run Friday evening through Tuesday afternoon.

Prendergast noted: “These trips are for anyone, of any faith background.”

For more information, interested students should get in touch with Cochran, Christensen, or Prendergast.

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