Whether they’re tutoring, painting murals or cleaning up hurricane debris, the 75 Calvin students who go on this year’s service-learning spring break trips will be sticking a little closer to home.

Whether they’re tutoring, painting murals or cleaning up hurricane debris, the 75 Calvin students who go on this year’s service-learning spring break trips will be sticking a little closer to home.

Whether they’re tutoring, painting murals or cleaning up hurricane debris, the 75 Calvin students who go on this year’s service-learning spring break trips will be sticking a little closer to home.

“We’re trying to be more thoughtful about our carbon footprint,” said Ryan Kruis, the service learning center’s interim program manager. “We thought it would be neat to have some of our trips be more local.”

Sustainable service

The spring break trips, which take place March 21–28—and which formerly reached out as far as New Mexico, California and  Mississippi—now have Boston, Mass., Chicago, Ill., Pittsburgh, Pa., Knoxville, Tenn., Houma and Boothville, La. and Grand Rapids, Mich., as destinations. “We wanted to take into account some of the costs of the trips,” Kruis said of the scaling back. “Sending students by plane is costly both financially and ecologically.”

Yet even though the trips aren’t ranging as widely, he believes that they will continue to have a big impact on students: “It’s a great way for them to spend their spring break because they’re able to give of their time to communities in need,” Kruis said. “But they’re also learning about the strengths of these communities, some of the unique cultural aspects of these communities. They’re learning about themselves but also their potential role of doing God’s work in God’s world.”

Calvin students will be doing service projects in an urban setting in Boston through The Boston Project and in Chicago through Sunshine Gospel Ministries.

Life with the sisters

Students will also work in urban ministry in Pittsburgh through the Millvale Franciscan Volunteer Program, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale, Pennsylvania. “They’re a bunch of fun and fiery women with a huge heart for God,” said Kruis, who mentored the inaugural Pittsburgh trip last year. Staying at the convent made that experience special, he said: “I think for all of the students, one of the highlights was eating dinner with the sisters and hearing about their lives.”

Students will work with at-risk young women in Tennessee through the Florence Crittenton Home.

They will clear up hurricane debris and do construction projects in Boothville, La. though the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and in Houma, La. on a trip initiated in 2005 by Dan Vandersteen of Calvin’s Broene Counseling Center.

In Grand Rapids, students will work through the Cook Library Center—which has a longstanding partnership with Calvin’s Boer-Bennink residence hall—and Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church.

Whether their destination is five or five hundred miles away, the benefits to students of participating in a spring break trip are multiple, Kruis said: “I think there’s a call as Christians to do service, and so they get to live that out. But in doing so, they learn about themselves, this world and their potential role in this world.”

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