By Alyssa Pereira
Most of the time, when people think of college students going on spring break, they tend to think of crazy beach parties and non-stop drinking. If you add in the Greek Life factor, you get ideas like wild sorority girls doing wet t-shirt contests and frat guys who walk around in bro tanks and carry beer around 24/7. These are the first things that come to mind, thanks to the lovely stereotypes of Greek Life that are portrayed in the media, but there is another side to what we, sorority women, and fraternity men actually do.
To the surprise of many, one of the most predominate things that Greek Life members do is community service. Service is at the heart of what it means to be in a fraternity or sorority. Our chapters and national headquarters are constantly encouraging us to go out, into the community and make a difference.
For this reason, it was no surprise to me that the majority of students on the spring break service trip were members of the various Greek life organizations on campus. Each and every one of us chose to get on a bus for 9 days, mostly with people we have never met before, travel half way across the country, and sleep on church floors, so that we could make a difference in more than just our small community.
The adventure began bright and early at 6:30am on a Friday, as we all boarded the bus to start our journey to Washington DC, a casual 1,500-ish mile road trip. Along the way, we stopped in five different cities, completing a service project in each one, totaling just around 25 hours of community service. Each day, we would wake up bright and early around 6:30am, quickly eat breakfast (which pretty much only consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or pop tarts), clean the church, and then load the bus andset out to our service project of the day. After completing four or five hours of community service, we pile back onto the bus and make our way to the next city so that we could do it all again tomorrow. All while on about 4 hours of sleep. Once we arrived in Washington DC, we were joined by 5 other buses from universities all over the Mid-West. We all teamed up and completed one last big, four-hour service project.
The first stop on our Pay it Forward tour was Madison, WI. In Madison, we had the opportunity to go to one of the state parks, and help cut down invasive plant species from the banks of a lake, so that more people would be able to visit the area and enjoy the wonders of Mother Nature. This personally was one of my favorite service projects because we really got to see how much of a difference we made. When we first got there and saw the patch of land we had to clear, I thought that there was no way we would be ever be able to make a dent. But to my surprise, and the hard work of everyone, we were able to completely clear the area. It was incredible to watch a group of complete strangers, buckle down and work together to get the job done. We were told that the work we did would have taken the set volunteers for the state park all summer. It was so rewarding to see how appreciative they were of what we did, and all it took was a couple hours of our day.
Then it was off to Lafayette, IN where we helped with repairs at a non- profit art museum. After that we hit Louisville, KY where we painted and updated studio rooms for a non-profit ballet school. Our fourth city was Charleston, WV. There we got to do our second hard labor service project at a garden that serves Manna Meal, a soup kitchen that gives two meals a day to anyone who walks through their doors no matter what. We were able to help them move mounds of mulch and fertilizer to raise the ground level, weed garden beds, and sort through donated items. I have never had so much fun shoveling dirt and getting muddy before! The last stop before Washington DC was Harrisburg, VA. In this city, we got a really cool opportunity to help out in Shenandoah National Park, where we cleaned garbage off of two hiking trails that had not yet opened for the season! Fun fact, both teams got lost on our trails!
Washington DC was an eye opening experience. The service project that we did as one giant group was cleaning one of the rivers near the city. I have never seen a river with so much garbage before. We had people things as small as candy wrappers to garbage as large as tires, traffic cones, car parts, even weird thing like credit cards and state IDs. It made me so sad to see how polluted the water was but seeing how much we pulled out was mind blowing.
One of the coolest parts about the entire experience was watching the faces of the people we met along the way when we told them about what we were doing. No one could believe that 36 college students would ‘give up’ their spring break to do a total of around 30 hours of community service in cities that they didn’t even live in. I never understood why people said ‘give up’ because this trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Yes, it was exhausting but every minute was worth it.
Not only did I as an individual get to make a difference, but I got to do it with fifteen of my Greek Life brothers and sister. We are living proof that the stereotypes of our community are not the reality. Not once did I hear anyone complain or wish they had done something different. Of course it would have been nice to be on a beach relaxing somewhere, but it was more important to do something meaningful.
Just because we are in a sorority or fraternity doesn’t mean we don’t care about the world.
Spending my spring break serving in multiple cities was the only way I would have wanted to spend it. I am proud to have represented my sorority, Kappa Delta, in each one of the cities with my sisters by my side.