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Students spend break serving others



The Lehigh students took a group of elementary school-aged children to the Smithsonian Museum.

Seven Lehigh students opted out of going home for R & R during the recent pacing break to volunteer for community outreach organizations in Washington D.C. They returned to Lehigh from their four-day journey with a sense of fulfillment and reward, and a renewed commitment to volunteerism.

“I've been on trips before and I've loved every one for a different reason,” says Brittany Grimaldi, an international relations major from Queensbury, N.Y. “A SERVE trip is a chance to grow as an individual, to get close as a group, and to learn more about issues and service. The Community Service Office has done a great thing in providing people with these opportunities.”

Grimaldi joined with six other Lehigh students to work with three youth organizations: Kid Power, a non-profit organization that provides youth development programming to 300 children from underserved communities in D.C.; Metro TeenAids, a community health organization dedicated to supporting young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS; and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL).

“We were with Kid Power for three days,” says Sarah Freeman ’11 of Highland Park, Ill. “When we arrived on Saturday, we baked cookies with local middle school children. The next day, we helped to sell these cookies, and some of the money earned went back to the Kid Power kids to sponsor after-school programs and trips. The rest of the money was donated to help reduce the dropout rate in DC public schools.”

Freeman and others say that working closely with Kid Power allowed the Lehigh students to develop a bond with the children. For Katey Burke ’10, a double major in English and classical civilization from West Pittston, Pa., a lingering memory will be of one of the young students she worked with.

“Ricky was so excited to sell cookies that he had worn his best suit,” Burke says. “And no matter what reaction he got from people walking by, his spirits never dropped.”



The Lehigh students who volunteered in Washington, D.C., during pacing break included, from left, Katey Burke, Sarah Freeman, Michelle (Mimi) LaPierre, Makenzie Wolfe, Brittany Grimaldi and Mike Chu.

The Lehigh students helped the Kid Power children raise $300, Burke says.

Adds Mike Chu ’10, a computer science and business major from Rochester, N.Y.:“When they announced how much money was made, I watched all of their faces light up with genuine shock and happiness.

The Lehigh volunteers were also paired with elementary school-aged students for a trip to the Smithsonian Museum.

“The one-on-one interaction with the kids was great, and it was great to see how excited they were to learn about all of the things in the museum,” says Makenzie Wolfe ’10, a bioengineering major from Pittsburgh.

On their last day, Lehigh students attended training sessions offered by Metro TeenAIDS and SMYAL, which helped to broaden their perspective in critical issues facing youths, says Michelle LaPierre ’11.

“The most important thing I will take away from these two training sessions is the importance of being a mentor for youth, and being open-minded to support people through any issue they may face,” says LaPierre, an integrated business and engineering (IBE) major from Medford, N.J.

Four of the students participating in pacingbreakSERVE have been on a SERVE trip before.

“The SERVE trips are great because they don't only allow you to participate in community service, but you also get to learn a lot about the issues with which you are helping and how to apply them to life here at Lehigh,” says Wolfe, who also traveled to Cincinnati over spring break to work with the homeless.

The packingbreakSERVE program was developed through the university’s Community Service Office, which runs similar programs over winter, spring and summer breaks.

--Lauren Martiello


Posted on Saturday, October 25, 2008

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