During spring break, university students across the country give their time to building houses and doing other hard labor to help those in need. This year, several groups of Tennessee Tech University students spent their time helping people and building relationships.
“At first, we thought we wanted to build houses and we were wishing we could do more, but then someone came up to us and said that hanging out with us was the most fun he’d had in two years,” said senior Brendan Blatchford, president of the TTU Newman Club. “We realized that it wasn’t about doing these big projects; it was about spending time with these people.”
Blatchford and other students with the Newman Club, TTU’s Catholic student organization, spent their time in Milwaukee working at a low-income apartment complex for older adults and at a day house for the homeless.
Another group with the TTU Rotary Club traveled to the Dominican Republic to work with orphans and preschool-aged children, reading to them, turning ropes for jump rope and simply spending time with them.
Closer to home, one student spent the week after the university’s break working with Putnam County students during Clean Break, a weeklong series of events dedicated to giving children something fun to do and preventing them from using illegal substances.
“Clean Break gives kids something to do when they probably would have stayed home,” said TTU junior Justin Sweatman, coordinator of the Clean Break program. “They get to spend time with positive peers and it makes sure they don’t partake in drugs or alcohol.”
Each group did some manual labor, but students said they enjoyed just spending time with people.
The Newman Club painted and did other odd jobs at Hadley Terrace, the apartment complex. They also helped set up a clothes closet at Repairs of the Breach, the homeless shelter.
Students on the Rotary trip distributed school supplies, clothing and food. They scouted locations for return trips to work with engineers and doctors and to improve schools and playgrounds.
Sweatman spent some of his time shuttling students between locations and watching that no one got hurt playing laser tag or at the pool.
“To give of your time to help others is always admirable, but for students, faculty and staff to sacrifice their spring break to help others is absolutely amazing,” said Michelle Huddleston, TTU service coordinator.
“Spring break is a time our campus family can get away, enjoy a vacation, catch up on some reading, or really do anything we want,” she said. “The choice to give is what makes our campus what President Bell has envisioned us to be – ‘a caring campus.’”