As a winter storm approaches, so does spring break for Rockford College students. Next week the campus will be a bit quieter as students rejuvenate and take a break from their academic endeavors.
21 Rockford College students are no different; as they gather to plan a trip south to warmer, if not always drier, weather to help build two homes as part of the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge. Alumnus, staff advisor and trip veteran Roy Roncal shares his insights about the experience.
“They [students] talk excitedly about the different food that they will sample and the possibility of new friends. They hope that other past friends may have an opportunity to meet up with them, even if it is only for a few days of the planned weeklong adventure. The newest of students ask what clothes and in particular, footwear should be brought. The more experienced explain that tee shirts of all kinds are required and that no one should forget the sunscreen.
While preparations may sound similar to planning a trip to the beach, they are really planning for an 11-hour bus ride to Starkville, Miss., to take part in the Collegiate Challenge program of Habitat for Humanity.
These students, along with 10 Rockford College alumni, will start building two houses, which are part of the community that the local Starkville affiliate of Habitat continues to develop. Rockford College has been traveling to Starkville for more than fifteen years; a relationship that was initiated by a small group of students who realized that they were more fortunate than others were.
In the 1990s after a series of floods in the Midwest, the Rockford College students went to southern Illinois and assisted with clean–up efforts and made initial contact with members of Habitat. The students learned of the Collegiate Challenge program that encouraged college students to work together with community members in all sorts of phases of home construction or re-habilitation. Students from the College have returned every year since, with the group growing to include, faculty, staff, and alumni.
It has become an experience for students to learn non-academic lessons from elders and for returners to learn leadership through service. Some alumni schedule vacation specifically on this week, just to pay for the right to work all week. All participants pay, some ask their family members to contribute, some ask their professors or their employers to contribute.”
This year the group is promised two sites to build on. On Sunday March 4, the group will witness the ground breaking and meet the families who will be living in the new homes by the summer.
We wish the RC group safe travels as they depart tomorrow for Starkville and look forward to learning more about their adventure upon their return. We also thank them for being exceptional ambassadors of both the College and the Rockford community in their travels to Mississippi.
Have a great week!