Spring Break 2014. Some went home. Some went to the beach. Some stayed on campus. And some went on spring break trips, participating in a wide variety of activities ranging from volunteering to performing to playing frisbee. Wes took the country by storm, traveling to places with exotic state birds such as the pelican, the brown thrasher, and the lark bunting. Take a look at what some of your friends were up to:
ServeUp trip to New Orleans
The Wesleyan chapter of ServeUp traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild communities and work with Katrina victims. ServeUp is a program under InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a network of campus ministries. Stacy Uchendu ‘17 graciously educated me about their experience.
The purpose of the trip, in addition to rebuilding, was to explore the relationship between social justice and faith for Christians and non-Christians alike. Eighteen Wes students were part of a larger group of 300 university students who worked in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city. Some students built a whole house in three days for the St. Bernard Project. Others painted houses in cheerful colors to brighten up the community. A third group worked on a community garden at Our School at Blair Grocery (check it out! Blair Grocery rocks).
The students found it rewarding to work as a team and make closer friendships with their peers. They learned from the perspectives of the Lower Ninth Ward residents: it is hard to believe that nine years post-Katrina, there is still so much to rebuild. In addition, they were grateful for others’ openness to discussing faith without judgement.
Back on campus, the students hope to bring more attention to ServeUp, for people of all faiths or no faith, for those who just want to learn about social justice, or for those who want to go to NOLA.
Throw Culture trip to Georgia
I sat down with Arthur Halliday ‘16 to learn about the spring break of Wesleyan’s one and only co-ed Ultimate Frisbee team. Throw Culture drove down to Brunswick, GA for the High Tide Ultimate Tournament, a popular destination for college frisbee teams. Thirty-five Wes students participated in seven games of frisbee over three days. When they were not competing, the students had fun visiting the beach and wearing “lots of jorts.”
One highlight of the trip was winning the last point, called the “universe point,” in an intense game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Even though Throw Culture didn’t win the tournament, they were quite determined to win in fun, and it seems like they succeeded– they always carry a boombox and dance around the field.
Besides learning more about the game of frisbee, the students enjoyed eating at Waffle House, a Southern chain whose establishments are interestingly correlated with Republican voting patterns. Overall, the trip confirmed the positive aspects of being on the team, and Throw Culture is eager to get more people involved!
WeSLAM trip to CUPSI
The WeSLAM team went to Colorado for the annual College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, with a mission of sharing their stories. The team, consisting of five students and one coach, traveled to the University of Colorado at Boulder to represent Wesleyan on the collegiate poetry slam circuit. A member of the team, Rick Manayan ‘17, informed me about the process.
Prior to leaving, the team wrote poetry and gave each other feedback, eventually coming up with an arsenal of performable poems. They tested their work in front of live audiences at regional slams at Yale and SUNY New Paltz. At CUPSI, they showcased as many poems as possible that they felt were strong and worth sharing. The team did not make it to semifinals, but they continued to make close bonds with other teams, take workshops, learn from other poets, and see professional poets.
Memorable parts of the trip included forging better relationships with their teammates, improving writing abilities, appreciating the wonders of Boulder, and visiting an all-poetry bookstore.
Rick mentioned that in his personal experience, he has seen shy people open up by sharing their stories through slam. He added, “The Wesleyan slam community is one of the most supportive communities I have ever been a part of, because people want you to do well and people want to hear your stories, so if you ever have an inkling of wanting to try slam then you should just go for it!”
JFS Urban Farming Alternative Break
Rebecca Seidel ‘15 told me about some sweet urban farming that went down in New Orleans, Louisiana (am I sensing a theme here?). This program was run by the Jewish Farm School, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that is “dedicated to teaching about contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative trainings and skill-based Jewish agricultural education.”
Participants learned about urban farming, food justice, and issues surrounding food sovereignty through a week of hands-on work and communal living. They delved into Jewish texts and contemporary farmers’ writing, using them as lenses through which to examine these ideas. In addition, they talked about food issues that were especially pertinent to New Orleans, particularly in the wake of Katrina. In the process, they got to explore and learn more about NOLA and the city, which I have been told is “awesome.”
Seven students in total participated, all from schools in the Northeast. They had a wide range of interests and experiences, and were quite a global group, collectively speaking ten different languages.
The group volunteered at three different farms: Sheaux Fresh, which is a family-owned, New Orleans-based business with a strong interest in increasing food access in the area; Grow Dat Youth Farm, whose mission is to educate and inspire young people through the work of growing food; and the VEGGI Farmers Cooperative, which is committed to providing fresh produce and sustainable jobs for community members.
Rebecca told me about her favorite parts of the trip: “One of the major highlights of the program was getting to meet and talk to so many people who have dedicated their lives to growing and providing food…Over the course of the week, we met plenty of other people with stories to tell, all of which were empowering in their own ways.”
Rebecca and the other participants were influenced to be more thoughtful about food. She added, “This trip inspired me to be more mindful of where my own food comes from and where it goes, and to be more appreciative of the food I eat every day as well. I already knew a fair amount about issues relating to food justice and food access going into this trip, but it’s so easy to have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality when it comes to those things–and coming from a super urban environment, I was definitely guilty of that. After the week I spent in New Orleans, not only am I more mindful of and grateful for the food that’s on my plate–I’m also planning to be more proactive in tackling issues surrounding food access both locally and globally.”
Rebecca will be “channeling the energy I’ve gotten from this trip into a killer arugula-themed playlist.” Tune in to WESU to catch it on air.
Spirits Tour of the South
Every year, the Wesleyan Spirits take a tour of the South where they enjoy singing and sharing their music. One of the Spirits, Max Luton ‘17, volunteered his time to tell me about the group’s ten-day, multi-city road trip.
The Spirits spent a night in Bethesda, MD, then drove through DC to watch the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial. In Atlanta, GA, they celebrated the Spirits’ 20th annual Spring Break reunion and performed at a few high schools. Next, they traveled to New Orleans (more Weskids in NOLA? What?) where they performed with an all-female a capella group at Tulane University. From Wes to Bethesda to Atlanta to New Orleans and back to Wes makes 2851 miles of Spiriting!
Highlights included singing at a performing arts school in Atlanta, a crawfish boil in New Orleans, the alumni reunion concert, and spending time with their host families. Max reported that in addition to learning about the traditions of the group and feeling a closer bond to his fellow Spirits, he “bought a pair of overalls and can’t stop listening to country music.” If you see a chap bopping around in his new overalls and singing along to Josh Turner and Lady Antebellum, stop and say howdy!
How was your break? Did you also go to New Orleans? Sound off in the comments!