While spending spring break on a beach appeals to some college students, others want more from their time off. A group of North Central College students fall in the latter category. They recently traveled to South Carolina and Detroit to help others.
“One of the best ways to learn about oneself is to do something for others,” said Brian Rainville, North Central’s director of ministry and service and the chaplain for the football team. “I’ve seen students so affected by the exposure to helping others that it changes the courses of their lives, and they change their majors.”
Service for NCC students isn’t unusual. While trips are offered during all school breaks, several excursions were offered for spring break on a first-come, first-served basis, and they filled up in an hour. The trips also included some fun times: the football players stayed in a house on a beach.
Rainville led a group of football players to South Carolina where they worked on homes for Habitat for Humanity during the day and spent the evenings getting to know each other as part of the Fellowship of Christian athletes through devotional and group time. This isn’t the first trip the football team has taken to South Carolina but one of the first for Rainville.
Matt Randolph, one of the football players as well as a 2012 graduate of Naperville Central High School, was a player who made the trip.
“It taught me a lot,” the sophomore said. “I got to work with my hands and learn valuable skills for when I’m older.”
Randolph admitted he didn’t have the skills needed to help build a house, but the Habitat staff showed him how to frame and shingle.
And according to Rainville, the Habitat chapter never doubts the work ethic of the NCC crew.
“They know the North Central students work hard,” Rainville said. “They are super excited to see the van roll up and the super-strong guys get out.”
Working with their hands is something most college student don’t get to do when they are busy reading, taking notes and writing papers. Nor do their everyday lives always give them the opportunities to help others.
“No matter where you are in life, it’s easy to get caught up in the college bubble,” Rainville said. “It’s refreshing to work with one’s hands.”
Junior Marissa Sylvester, from Mokena, wanted to get involved, and when a friend texted her that they needed extra people for a trip to Detroit to work with the Motown Mission Experience, she immediately signed up.
While family members cautioned her about going to Detroit with its abandoned building and high crime rate, she embraced it as an opportunity to help others.
Sylvester and her fellow students volunteered for several organizations. They first painted a church and then sorted clothes for an organization that had received a large donation for their free store.
“They needed as many hands as they could get,” she said, knowing they arrived at the right time.
They also scraped painted off abandoned parking lots, moved furniture into a building that was being renovated into a veteran’s home, and swept a street with a broom and shovel.
“We had a dramatic effect on the street,” she said.
But her favorite task was when they were given sledgehammers and told to destroy large lamp posts to separate the aluminum from the metal.
“We were literally told to go at it,” she said.
For Rainville and Randolph, each came away with the joy of helping others but also inspiration for themselves.
“It was great just to see the super-positive attitude (of my teammates),” Randolph said. “I never get tired of it.”
Sylvester had a similar experience.
“At first my mindset was to go help people in need,” Sylvester said. “But I walked away with a sense of optimism for the community. They were so motivated that I know one day things will get better.”