Ten University of Dayton students opted for boarded-up windows and duct-taped cars over tan lines and poolside naps. These students chose to go to East St. Louis for their midterm break, March 6-9.
East St. Louis was one of three Spring Breakout trips offered through the Center for Social Concern. Other service trip locations were the Ozanam Center in Cincinnati and UD’s Appalachia Program house in Salyersville, Ky.
“These trips are mostly educational,” said Mary Niebler, associate director of the Center for Social Concern. “Students are always looking for a ‘hands-on’ experience; honestly, that’s not always what’s needed. What is needed is for people of privilege, which includes college students, to learn about some of the issues that are going on in our world. Because people who graduate from UD may go on to be decision-makers and activists in their communities, they need to know about some of the struggles that other people are going through.”
The East St. Louis immersion works in conjunction with the Hubbard House, Catholic Urban Programs and the Marianist brothers. During their experience, students stayed at the Hubbard House while they learned about social issues and life in East St Louis. On Friday evening, students had the opportunity to meet with Marianist brothers, who have been living in the inner-city since the 1960s, and hear about the area’s history.
“It was really depressing to hear,” said Mark Kristl, a senior history major. “When I went to bed that night, I was really searching for something positive — some silver lining that would turn the city’s situation around.”
However, Kristl did find hope the next day. He saw it illuminated through the people who lived there.
He noted that when they were having a yard sale on behalf of a home for abused women, one local came and purchased some clothing. The total amount for the clothing was $6; however, when she found out the money was going toward the home, she paid with a $10 bill and insisted that they keep the change. After visiting an elementary school and meeting a community advocate and local professor, Kristl was inspired by everyone’s passion to make a difference in the East St. Louis community.
“You have to give it up for the teachers and other people who dedicate their time to this community,” he said.
The trip solidified Kristl’s decision to engage in a year of service after graduation. He quoted a song sung the last night of the trip: “Do you think I’m rich?” goes a line. The answer: “Well, how often do you eat?”