Students Serve Others, Build Friendships During Spring Break
Date published: March 22, 2016
Some students were veterans of the program; others had heard about the amazing experience
from friends who’d gone in previous years; and some simply felt called to serve. Whatever
initially drew people to Alternative Spring Break (ASB), however, the consensus seems
to be that they could not have chosen a better group of people with whom to participate.
This year, 17 students and two campus ministers traveled to McAllen, Texas, located
on the Rio Grande across from the Mexican city of Reynosa. They divided their time
between helping construct houses on a building site, Proyecto Azteca, and working
at a Catholic Charities refugee center that provides single parents and their children
with food, clothing, friendly conversation and a place to shower.
“I’ve been on mission trips before,” said biology major Kathleen Miller, BA ’17, “but
never before with a group of people who bonded with each other so fast and so well.”
Thomas Hogan, BA ’19 (who will likely double-major in philosophy and classics), concurred:
“There was a real sense of working together, collaborating, as a community. Whether
we were hanging drywall or wiping down tables, we were doing it as a team, not as
For the ASB students, seeing the communities they served was also a rewarding part
of the experience.
“McAllen has some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the U.S.,” said classical
philology major Zachary Foust, BA ’17, who also participated in ASB his freshman year.
“We expected desolation, but the people were very welcoming and happy to see us; you
could tell they liked having us there.”
The group stayed at a Lutheran church, where they also felt very welcomed; after their
arrival on the first day, they were given a tour of the border and the neighborhoods
or “colonias,” as well as a three-hour information session during which they were
apprised of the situation there.
“There are a lot of very rural, unincorporated areas in that county,” said Foust.
“They have to maintain their own septic systems. One is located right by a landfill.
We didn’t visit those, but some of the houses we were working on will be sent to those
The houses themselves are built by professionals with the assistance of the families
who will be residing in them, who are able to get no-interest mortgages in exchange
for their labor.
One day, the group served at a St. Vincent de Paul Society soup kitchen. On the last
day, the students threw a party for the children in one of the colonias.
As far as their work at the refugee center, they enjoyed talking to the families and
getting to know a little of their stories. Foust learned that one family was actually
heading to Alabama, where he’s from.
“There’s only so much you can actually do in a week,” said Hogan. “The work was very
well-planned; we got to experience different aspects of different types of service.”
“It was wonderful to bond together while serving others,” said Miller.
The chosen Bible verse for the week was John 17:21: “So that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world
may believe that you sent me.”
“We had a real sense of that,” said Hogan.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Miller and Campus Minister Nicholas Lopez.