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Wittenberg Awarded Flag From U.S. Capitol After Spring Break Service Work

April 26, 2010  
 Filed in Headlines

The American flag in this photo went from the U.S. Capitol building to Wittenberg in April in honor of students' exemplary service work during Spring Break 2010.

Springfield, Ohio – Wittenberg University was recently awarded an American flag previously flown outside the United States Capitol as recognition for the hard work of 11 students during an alternative spring break trip in Bay St. Louis, Miss., from March 6-13.

For the past five years, Wittenberg students have participated in alternative spring break trips to fulfill the university’s community service graduation requirement at an out-of-state service site during spring break. During the 2010 trip, titled “Mission on the Bay,” volunteers from all over the nation aided in hurricane disaster relief five years after Hurricane Katrina.

As a thank you and recognition, Chris Lagarde, Wittenberg’s camp construction supervisor, presented the group with the flag on their last day in Mississippi. Lagarde noted that not every volunteer group he works with is awarded a flag, making this a special honor for Wittenberg and its Community Service Office. The flag was flown outside of Wittenberg’s Benham-Pence Student Center from April 12-20.

Alex Simon, class of 2011 from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Ahzy Ghavami, class of 2012 from Centerville, Ohio, served as the trip’s co-leaders, accompanied by Stephanie Rines, AmeriCorps*Vista in Wittenberg’s Office of Community Service.

“This is the first time a service site host has made such an effort to recognize Wittenberg and its students’ efforts,” said Rines, class of 2008. “The hurricane relief camps we stay and work with see hundreds to thousands of volunteers a year, so it is quite an honor to be recognized as one of the hardest working groups they have met.”

Students worked vigorously for four days straight, as each student gave 32 hours of service to the site. The students first worked at a camp site built for immediate response Katrina relief efforts that had been abandoned but never cleaned up. A task that was expected to take at least one day to complete was finished just before lunch. Later in the week, the students helped individuals in need, whose properties and houses had been destroyed by the powerful 50-foot storm surge. Reaching out to a woman in need, the students installed insulation in her newly rebuilt house so that she could finally afford the cost of living there.

Students and Stephanie Rines (center, in orange) take a break during Spring Break service work.

“This trip really personalized the stories behind the destruction,” Simon said. “We talked with two people for extended periods of time about how the storm personally affected them. Such emotion behind what we were helping them get through really affected us all more than we thought it would before we left.”

Although the work done on this trip did fulfill many students’ service requirement for graduation, it became much more than that at the end of the work week. The experience helped shed light on why Wittenberg requires its students to participate in community service during their four years as an undergraduate.

“The number of people that went to the Gulf Coast, with this trip, or with Habitat for Humanity, showed me that people at Wittenberg really do take the community service requirement as more than a requirement,” Simon said. “It is seen as more than a message of good intent, but a responsibility taken upon ourselves to help the world around us.”

Written By: Haley Gerken ’10
Photo submitted

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